Now, one of my friends has been bugging me to try out Ajisen Ramen, so as the fearless food explorer that I am, I had to accept the challenge. I passed by Robinson’s Place Las Pinas last Sunday after a trip to Yexel Toy Museum, and found Ajisen Ramen at the far corner of the mall.
The interior was pretty sweet. It’s nice, warm and cozy but a little cramped, which is par for the course for restaurants in malls that do not have a strong life-style theme. It’s filled with rich wooden panels and we got comfortable seats up front.
We got down to ordering food from the menu. The menu was actually quite nice, it’s got a strange texture to it. Man, I love talking about texture in food, but I never thought I’d talk about the texture of the menu!
We settled for the house specialty, Ajisen ramen, along with a Jurassic Roll and my favorite restaurant tester, Katsudon.
Let’s start with the ramen, Ajisen.
I was a little disappointed with this ramen. As the house specialty, the dish that carries the name of the restaurant, I was expecting something special. However, this is really just the basic shio tonkotsu ramen. There’s a beauty in simplicity, and the best chefs can use the most basic techniques and dishes to create the most wonderful taste experiences, but I didn’t think I got that here.
It’s not that it was bad, just normal. This ramen bowl has some cabbage, egg, some slices of chashu, bamboo shavings, the usual stuff you’d expect. The noodles are thin and stringy, texture is a bit stiff and it bites and breaks easily. It’s not the chewy or gooey kind.
The toppings are not very tasty; this ramen is very delicate and not strong on spice or taste. You are here to savor the mellow flavors. The Chashu is easy to eat but not particularly soft, and it was pretty bland. The soup stock, which for me is the most imporant — is again very delicate with mellow flavors, just a hint of that salty shio flavor. Overall, a good bowl of ramen, but not a great bowl. I’m a bit disappointed that this is their signature dish.
Next on the menu was the Jurassic Maki.
I’m a big fan of modern makimono. This is a very salivating dish, the Jurassic Maki. It’s the most expensive maki on the menu, it might even be the most expensive thing on their menu, at 555 bucks. It’s got everything I love! It’s got unagi (eel) on top, barbecued to perfection and garnished with sesame, salmon roe and negi. The main roll is nori wrapped with rice, all around a sumptuous core of shrimp (the tail is there!), crab sticks, mango, and with lots of wasabi and soy sauce to dip it in.
It sounds great on paper, but in execution, there was a fatal flaw — the rice was kind of dry and broke up a lot. It’s not just the structural integrity, the dry rice means that dish loses the core moistness that a maki needs to be scrumptious. The unagi was fine, the rest of it was good, but I did not enjoy it too much because of the rice.
And there was a LOT of it — I wasn’t able to finish because I had Katsudon left to eat, but this meal is enough for two people, they were very generous with the serving. I am just disappointed that I couldn’t really enjoy its flavor all that much as it had a fatal imperfection to it.
And finally, my signature dish to order: Katsudon.
Now fortunately, Ajisen did pretty well with the Katsudon! This was a pretty big bowl, I would be happy eating just this, but as your foodie slave I am obligated to eat as much as possible and order as much so I can tell you as many biased, prejudiced opinions about food as possible.
Anyway, this is a great katsudon. The dashi is very tasty, and they finally make good on their promise of “Aji.” The egg, the veggies topping it, the rice, they were all great and they came together in an awesome way.
The breading wasn’t the best, which is the only thing I’d dock from the dish as a whole, as it felt a little too thick and floury, but the pork inside was nicely cut, thinly enough to just be right, and it was soaked with a great porky taste. Even if the breading wasn’t perfect, the dashi’s rich taste more than made up for it.
I found myself hastily gobbling it all up — which is always a good thing.
Overall, a great bowl, I’d rank its katsudon a little below Tempura’s but much better than say Teriyaki Boy’s new Katsudon recipe. Because of this, I give Ajisen my seal of approval, and will be back to try other dishes in the future.
I’m happy to have tried Ajisen here in Robinson’s Place Las Pinas. It’s near the front of the mall to the extreme corner. Come visit and have a nice bowl. I will try their other ramen bowls in the future to see if their more exotic ones can satisfy my tastes.