Some of you may still remember the scathing review I gave of Ramen Bangaichi last year back when I was still with WordPress.com. If not, no fret. Bottom line is, I was not impressed with their ramen. So a year later, why did I come back for more punishment?
Well things can change, I noticed Asahikawa rebranded their menus (they did it again today — so my menu shots below are different from what they are in the restaurant now), and more tellingly, I see that Asahikawa is now shacking up with Pho Hoa. That is never a good sign — usually when that happens the owner feels sales have been slow, and decides to augment the shop with another related dish in order to maximize clientele and profits.
So from this it seems it’s safe to say the people behind Jack’s Loft and Pho Hoa at the main buliding of Filinvest Festival Mall also own Asahikawa Ramen Bangaichi. Sadly, this kind of thing just tells me that Asahikawa Ramen is not doing too well. I saw it happen before with Tomato, an Italian restaurant in Filinvest Northgate that did so poorly it supplemented its position with Hen Lin. A few months later, the entire place shut down.
Anyhow, back to Asahikawa. It’s a Ramen specialty shop in Festival Mall’s Riverpark, which specializes in scenic views and good restaurants. It’s home to great restaurants like Hog’s Breath Cafe, which has a Seafood and BBQ special platter out this December by the way.
Long story short, Asahikawa Ramen Bangaichi never has impressed me, but their spicy miso is decent to good. Let’s look at the stuff I ate this time:
The Spicy Miso Ramen is for chill lovers who want something hot. It’s 360 bucks a bowl, the menu doesn’t show it clearly, but if you are going to eat here, this is your best bet to leave happy. It has a miso broth base which has a complex layering of flavor, very vegetarian tasting while at the same time feeling very sinful because of the tonkotsu broth. This is then garnished with a lot of vegetables like bok choi, bean sprouts, onions, green onions, and sesame seed.
It has a very, very tasty flavor that you won’t soon forget, and is one of their thickier and tastier broths. For those who can’t take spicy food, this isn’t too spicy so you can probably still survive tasting it, but if not you can opt for the non-spicy version of their Miso, but it doesn’t taste as good and doesn’t have as thick a nuance of flavor in my tasting.
This ramen is called Sapporo Ramen, named after the city in which it was made, it is Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido (Sapporo is a sister city of Asahikawa in Hokkaido). Now, this kind of ramen though isn’t anything I’d associate with actual Sapporo Ramen, which tends to have thick miso bases. But whatever. Let’s talk about today’s ramen.
It’s brothless, meaning it’s just noodles with the good laid on top. What we have is the great noodles of Asahikawa Ramen, combined with some bok choi, green onions, bamboo, sesame and a richly-marinated, thick tasting ground pork mix. The meat mix is what gives this ramen its lease on life. I suggest mixing the entire bowl evenly to get the oils of the meat slathered onto the noodles, giving it a great tasty flavor.
Overall, this was a nice meal, quite tasty, and it’s a new item on their menu. It wasn’t here when I ate here last year. However, I was not particularly impressed, especially considering that Yushoken has its own soba-type ramen (called Karai Maze Soba) which is, unfortunately for Asahikawa, far superior. Sapporo Ramen is 320 bucks (while Karai Maze Soba is 350).
And again, my famous Katusdon Test. This is the test I use to really judge how good a restaurant is. Needless to say, Asahikawa is flunks this with flying colors. Their Katsudon is disappointing on many levels.
The first of which is the taste — it just isn’t tasty enough. The dashi is quite lacking. It doesn’t soak into the rice, and it doesn’t have a strong enough flavor.
Second, the pork cutlet. The katsudon has some really stiff pork cutlets which you cannot tear with your teeth from the chopstick. That’s a no-no. Many people don’t want to eat the entire slice of pork in one mouthful, looking to savor the meal or eat in smaller pieces to improve their digestion.
There is no choice with this katsudon as the lean pork is so tough, your teeth will not be enough to tear it. You’ll need to ask for a spoon and fork to properly eat this. Proper katsudon can (and should be) eaten with chopsticks, and this can only be done if the pork is properly tender.
In addition, they include some of the fat in the breaded dish. Strangely, the cut is wrong in that you will get one strip of breaded cutlet that has no actual lean meat inside it, but just all fat. I hate that. If you cut it the right way along the grain, the lean pork will be in the center and the fat in the sides, in small amounts, or better yet, no fat at all as real katsudon should have the fat removed and only lean meat used! Fatty Katsudon is an instant fail.
Next, the rice. The rice is not good, not bad. It’s not the nice kind of Japanese rice. It’s not koshihikari rice by a long shot. It doesn’t clump together properly, once again making eating with chopsticks more of a chore.
There’s just so much wrong with Asahikawa’s Katsudon that I must strongly recommend NEVER ORDERING IT because it is that bad. Even though it’s well priced at 210 bucks, it’s just not worth it.
Here on the other hand is the Gyouza. Gyouza is also another good way to measure the culinary skills of the chef, but I have not yet instituted a Gyoza type test. This one has one side seared and the other steamed, which is good. Also, the gyouza did not break apart when I picked it up with the chopstick. Good.
The texture of the wrapper was good, but the inner flavor was average at best. It doesn’t have any special surprises like brimming with tonkotsu broth, or having special cheese or nori flavors, or anything of the sort, and the pork veggie filling is not particularly tasty or strong in flavor. It’s a serviceable, adequate gyouza that you can try but nothing to go out of your way to try.
And what’s Ramen without some Aji Tamago? That flavorful egg really makes me smile when I dip it in and smash it into my ramen broth. The aji tamago is not the best I’ve had, it’s not as flavorful as some other ramen houses, but it’s a good price at 40 bucks.
You’ll find pictures of the menu below should you decide to make this your next Japanese culinary adventure. Just be mindful of the Katsudon. I will still probably eat here from time to time to try out the rest of their menu, and hopefully not get a dud.
Come have a taste of Asahikawa Village here at Filinvest Festival Mall, Riverpark.