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Ajisen coming to SF Westfield

I was rushing through the basement of Nordstrom Center when I noticed a Coming Soon sign for Ajisen Ramen. Does anyone have the scoop on when they're hoping to open? It looked completely boarded up, so I'm assuming it's going to be awhile.

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  1. It was first noted a couple of weeks ago http://is.gd/cLKfJ. Who knows what's going on behind that facade? It could be soon.

     
    1 Reply
    1. re: soupçon

      Early August according to the Ajisen website. Can't wait.

    2. I'm not familiar with this place. What are the best things to try?

      2 Replies
      1. re: The Librarian

        Ajisen is an international chain. Here's a thread from last year on the Fremont, CA location.
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/619355

        1. re: The Librarian

          don't order the "hot" ramen, the heat (chiles) will hide all the natural flavors. i prefer the pork broth. forget what they call it at ajisen.

        2. I went by today. A message and telephone number for recruiting employees has been added to their billboard sign, so I assume something is happening behind that facade.

            1. re: soupçon

              http://blogs.sfweekly.com/foodie/2010...

              SF Weekly's piece says that the SF location is the first in Northern California. Maybe the first for the LA franchisee (http://www.ajisen-la.com/). There's been one in Fremont, CA for a few years now, http://www.ajisensf.com/ . Or maybe there's another story behind the Fremont branch?

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                The Ajisen LA website lists the new SF branch, but not the Fremont restaurant: http://www.ajisen-la.com/locations.html

                1. re: Cicely

                  The website also confuses "tonkatsu" (pork cutlets) with "tonkotsu" (pork bones) when describing their soup -- quite a common mistake among Chowhounds, but unusual for a ramen purveyor.

                  1. re: Tripeler

                    Is there an Ajisen site in Japanese that shows the world-wide locations?

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      On the Japan site I found a huge list of overseas locations.
                      The locations in the U.S. (including Fremont) are shown here

                      http://www.aji1000.co.jp/shopinfo/kai...

                      There are a huge number of locations in China and throughout Asia.

                      1. re: Tripeler

                        Thank you, so it looks like Fremont is an "official" branch. I had sort of wondered if there might be an infringement like with the China's Little Sheep chain or Hui Lau Shan.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Yes, but the new SF branch is still not indicated on the Japan website.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            The little sheep in Fremont is not the same chain as the one I went to in Hohhot? When I saw the sign from a passing bus I must admit I got excited about the find. Melanie - can you give the scoop?

                            1. re: boris_qd

                              If you mean the one in Union City on the Fremont border, it's an "official" branch. But you might object to the prices if you've been to the mother ship. http://www.littlesheephotpot.com/loca...

                    2. re: Cicely

                      Right, which is the basis for my question.

                      There's another website, http://www.ajisen-usa.com/, but I can't get beyond the splash page.

                2. i had a late lunch at ajisen on thursday, the day after opening. it was about 4 PM and there was ample seating and a LOT of staff running around. i overheard someone next to me who had been there for the grand opening the day before, and he said it was a mad house. i ordered the premium pork, largely based on melanie wong's report on the fremont location last year.

                  i was astonished at the mound of pork that came with my bowl, considering the fact that this is a huge chain restaurant. and the pork was extremely tender and juicy. super thin shavings (not belly cut...shoulder?) of lush pork over finely chopped scallions and cabbage. a lot of it, or so it seemed to me. my ramen experiences are unfortunately limited to san francisco and one small chinese restaurant in tokyo, not a proper ramen-ya or stand but a family restaurant that happened to serve bleh ramen (visited a friend over the new year's celebrations. BAD timing).

                  so i'm not entirely sure how i feel about the rest of the bowl. the tonkotsu broth was milky and rich, but seemed one dimensional. i thought i sensed flecks of toasty browned fried shallot or some oniony flavor, but after awhile it just seemed too rich. i was also very thirsty when i got there, and the ice water and the citron iced tea (think korean yuja cha, or a sweet, marmalade-like yuzu product dissolved in water. bracing, bright, and delicious) just didn't seem quenching enough. but it wasn't salt i was trying to wash away, it was just a sort of blanket richness. the noodles were firm enough but did soften a bit.

                  i found myself wanting other components to balance the richness of the broth and the generous pork, and the scallions and cabbage weren't doing it. i wanted something vegetal, or some contrast. i started off enjoying the bowl quite a bit but at the end i couldn't finish it.

                  i'm being rather critical, but i did enjoy it and on jaunts to the mall will go back and try other bowls, but the premium pork ended up being a little too rich for me.

                  service is extremely friendly if awkward, but this was day 2 after all, and i expected worse.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: augustiner

                    Finally made it here last night with a couple of friends. Service is friendly; it's a very clean fast food experience.

                    Augustiner describes my ramen perfectly. Noodles were okay, pork was decent, but the broth had no flavor. I also thought the cabbage was old.

                    One friend had the vegetarian bowl which looked nice. He and his son both put a lot of sri-racha in. They loved the citron hot tea and lychee boba drinks. We also had a tiny agedashi tofu and potato croquettes. It was okay, but that's all. I asked for shchimi (sp?) to add a little flavor.

                    Are the miso or shoyu broths any better?It seems like this could be much more flavorful without a lot of work.

                    1. re: Windy

                      Totally agree. I'm not even eager to try the other broths.

                      1. re: Windy

                        Ajisen is from Kumamoto so the tonkotsu is their signature broth (i.e. probably the best to try). They put fried garlic into the broth which might be the flecks Augustliner mentioned.

                        I haven't eaten at the Westfield branch, but thought the broth was decent in Fremont. It's a different franchisee so probably not apples to apples.

                    2. Is the chain Japanese or Chinese? I've seen mixed reports.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: jman1

                        I believe Ajisen originated in Japan.

                        1. re: jman1

                          I thought it was Chinese--the flavor profile is more of a Chinese spin of a Japanese dish originally based on Chinese noodles. Very meta.

                          1. re: sfbing

                            Could depend upon who is actually making it.

                          2. re: jman1

                            Ajisen is owned by a holding company, Shigemitsu Industry of Kumamoto, Japan, but operated under s series of exclusive franchises, like Ajisen China (known in China as Weiqian), Ajisen North America, etc.

                            1. re: soupçon

                              Sounds like the information on Wikipedia is wrong and is misleading people:

                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajisen_R...

                              "Ajisen Ramen is a China based-chain of fast-food restaurants selling Japanese ramen noodle soup dishes. The corporate name is SHIGEMITSU INDUSTRY CO., LTD."

                              1. re: jman1

                                Ajisen Ramen was founded in Japan in 1968 and the brand is owned by Shigemitsu. Your quote above refers to Ajisen (China), which started in 1996, and is the sole franchisee in China.
                                http://www.ajisen.com.cn/en/about01.php
                                http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releas...

                                -----
                                Ajisen Ramen
                                47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont, CA

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  So, are you saying that the Wikipedia page is correct? Or, agreeing that it's incorrect?

                                  Just think that the Wikipedia page is confusing because it doesn't specify that it's talking about the Chinese operations only. I did find an Ajisen corp page which indicated that it was Japanese.

                                  1. re: jman1

                                    the links Melanie posted support the "incorrect" assessment.

                                    the wikipedia page is not just talking about China operations.

                          3. Any recent visits? Melanie, have you been there yet? We need to know where this ranks on your ramen list!

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: RichInMV

                              My post above is from last week. Lukewarm and not something to seek out unless you're already at the mall.

                              1. re: Windy

                                Windy - sorry I missed that in the thread! Disappointing, as I keep hoping to find some decent ramen within a walking radius of lower Market St (well, Westfield is stretching that). I'll keep waiting...

                                1. re: RichInMV

                                  in another thread someone recommended Ken Ken Ramen which has a popup today at 18th and Mission from noon on. I'm eager to check it out. Looks like the real deal.

                                  -----
                                  Ken Ken Ramen
                                  3378 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                  1. re: Windy

                                    Today Ken Ken is only doing dinner.

                              2. re: RichInMV

                                i'd say it is probably the best ramen i've had in sf, but that's not saying much.

                                1. re: RichInMV

                                  There are several Ajisen branches in the San Gabriel Valley which are quite good. They are a favorite in the Chinese American community. However there is a branch in the Century City Shopping Center food court, (also a Westfield mall) and that one isn't particularly good. My guess is that they dumbed down the Century City mall branch for the locals, and that they did the same thing at Westfield San Francisco.

                                  1. re: Chandavkl

                                    What's to dumb down in ramen? The salt?

                                    Actually, the "special" (tonkotsu) ramen I tried at the Westfield Mall tasted exactly like the one I had in Shanghai. I suspect all branches are supplied with the same concentrate for the traditional ramen types.

                                    1. re: soupçon

                                      I really don't know, but there's no comparison between the mall branch and the SGV branches. The former scores maybe a "6", the latter probably a "8" or "9". (I'm not going to spend another $9 at the mall to figure it out.)

                                      1. re: Chandavkl

                                        I'd give my bowl at Westfield a 4. The noodles were okay, but the broth was a fraction as flavorful as Ryowa or even Sawaii.

                                        -----
                                        Ryowa
                                        2068 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                        1. re: Windy

                                          If you were really hungry maybe it'd be a 6.

                                          1. re: Chandavkl

                                            If I were really hungry, I'd walk over to Sorabol.

                                      2. re: soupçon

                                        I'm now predicting a comment from Ken...

                                      3. re: Chandavkl

                                        Here's the "scandal" about Ajisen using powders and concentrates for its soups simmering in Shanghai, which seems to be a tempest in a teapot, if you ask me. I can't imagine that each of the 140+ Ajisen branches in Shanghai have pork bones bubbling on a stove in a back room every day.

                                        http://shanghaiist.com/2011/07/25/sou...

                                    2. Read some of the August comments....sounds like we don't know who is the parent franchise company of the Westfield Ajisen (whether the owner went through Ajisen Japan, China, or who runs Ajisen in Northern California). The one in Fremont seemingly has Japanese chefs and waitstaff. So what about Westfield? What about Southern California? Judging from Chandavkl's comment, that it seems popular amongst the Taiwanese Americans and expats, I'm guessing some Taiwanese person took up the franchise for the SGV based ones? Either that or they saw an opportunity for ramen in that area (like the overrated Daikokuya).

                                      Kuni-san of Lakuni (San Mateo) told me last week that Ajisen is opening up a location in downtown San Mateo. :-o Forgot to ask where and when, but given the fact that Himawari has been nothing but terrible in my book (despite being heavily crowded into the night), I doubt having yet another jonit ramen joint mprove the landscape (or rather, dilute and oversaturate it).