Let’s put it out there – I’m not a food snob. If something tastes good, happens to be inexpensive and doesn’t require waiting for then life is good. That’s somewhat how I feel about ramen restaurants - many are delicious but requires too much effort to wait around for. Yes, I’d love a bowl of satisfyingly hot noodles, but I don’t want to stand around in the cold for half an hour first.
Which is why when the Kinton Ramen line gets too long in North York, I go to Ajisen Ramen instead. Personally, I find them just as satisfying and the numerous menu options a plus as well. Some may find Ajisen’s soup milder than other chains. For me, it’s flavourful enough without being overly oily & salty and as a bonus arrives piping hot. Ajisen’s soup base is what they call “white soup”, developed in southern Japan made from boiling pork bone with other ingredients and results in a lighter milkier colour. It’s not as oily so may lack that rich fatty essence people enjoy about chicken based soups.
My husband ordered the tender rib ramen ($9.50) which actually became my favourite one. There is an ample amount of meat which has sticky pieces of tendon attached to it. As a warning, tendon is an acquired taste – some will find the gummy soft texture gross. It took me a few years to develop a liking to it and now I love the contrast between the chewy tendon and soft meat.
The protein quantity in my corn and BBQ pork ramen ($8.99) paled in comparison, with a mere three slices of the smallest and thinnest pork I’ve ever seen. Instead there was a generous handful of frozen corn and half a hard-boiled egg. Which is what I miss most about other ramen restaurants – their lovely onsen soft-boiled eggs with the vibrant yellow yolks. Sadly, you won't find it here.
You may also find Ajisen’s noodles thinner than others. But, they were still springy and didn’t get mushy in the soup. And what I enjoy most is sprinkling the flavourful chili powder over everything. Indeed, for a true ramen connoisseur this is likely akin to pouring HP1 sauce on steak, but for a non-ramen snob it’s delicious!
Their pan fried gyoza ($4.50) was where the quality faltered dramatically. As a plus they arrive searing hot with a nice crust on the bottom. But, the wrapper is also hard and sticks together so any chance of enjoying the juices in the dumplings is gone.
In the end, Ajisen’s not the best ramen you’ll ever have. But, for the price and the table availability they’re not bad either. So, next time there’s a long wait at a competing place, give them a try. It’s certainly not the finest, but sometimes satisfying a craving earlier makes things so much better.
Overall mark - 7 out of 10
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Gastro World's Grading System
- Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
- 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
- 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
- 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
- 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
- 10 - absolute perfection!