Anyone make it over to Ajisen Ramen(Sf) ?
- foodfanUSA Aug 20, 2010 11:34 PM
Anyone try it out, thoughts? Curious how it stacks up against the San Mateo heavy hitters.
I went midday today and was impressed. Their Kyushu-style broth is pork-based (tonkotsu) lightened with some chicken broth, so it's milky without being as creamy or heavy as a pure tonkotsu broth. I prefer pure tonkotsu, but nonetheless found this broth well-balanced. Their noodles are thinner than I like, but they heeded my request to cook them a bit less so they stayed toothsome throughout the (big) bowl. I tried the premium pork -- thin slices of pork neck, both moist and a bit crispy around the edges, more delicate and more flavorful than the chashu I also tasted. I ordered one piece of pork rib, which was also delicious but too rich with the porky broth.
The corn I added nicely cut the rich broth, and it was blanched but not mushy; same with the scallion rings, which I liked softened slightly rather than raw. I did not like the shredded cabbage, which was a distraction and seemed to have no function other than filling the bowl -- especially since the corn I added already provided vegetal crunch.
Next time I'll have the same "premium pork" ramen, no need for the extra pork rib, hold the cabbage, and add corn. Oh, and add the hard-boiled egg, which I tasted -- well-seasoned and warmed before being added to the bowl.
The bowl was large, a good value at $10ish including my extras. Not as great as Halu (San Jose) or Santouka (I've tried several LA locations), but much better than any other ramen I've tried in SF, and better than my regular options for quick food in the Union Square malls area (Sorabol BBQ pork, tom yum noodle soup from Coriander, or tuna poke rice bowl from Hana at the back of the Westfield food court).
Location: basement of the Westfield Mall, closer to 5th Street, near Rubio's and Panda Express.
re: david kaplan
I should have asked for firm noodles as well, as their straight noodles were too soft for my taste. I didn't realize the creamy broth was lightened with chicken stock, but for me it didn't have much depth and lacked porkiness. I enjoyed the premium pork slices, really tender and tasty.
I also tried the pork rib, which was also tender and delicious with soft cartilage. We requested the pork rib ramen spicy, but it didn't have much heat, just a bit of chili oil.
I didn't like the cabbage at all, and wondered where the bamboo shoots were. I guess you have to request to add them? At least the pork rib ramen had seaweed included.
Overall though, this place hardly comes close to Santouka or Ramen Dojo.
805 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401
675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129
I switch between Ajisen and Maru Ichi according to my mood (though I'll probably be going to Tadamasa on occasion now). Ajisen in Fremont is well-established; their pork is really good, and their kara-age is a tasty side if you're sharing a bowl of ramen. Check out the variety of kara-age--the one with balsamic is especially tasty. I haven't been to the SF one yet, but I like the Fremont one a lot. (I thought Halu was okay, but not outstanding. Maybe it's a broth vs. noodles thing.)
I cringe at the prices every time (a bowl of the "Ajisen ramen" is 550 yen in Japan--my Japanese clients could hardly bring themselves to go there), but it's a heck of a lot cheaper than an ANA flight, right?
Anyway, I hope the SF one is good too.
312 8th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118
34672 Alvarado Niles Rd, Union City, CA 94587
Overall: fun environment, great variety in menu, not necessary for a special trip, but a wonderful option if you're at the mall. i had the spicy pork ramen (salt broth) and my friend had butter corn ramen (salt broth). the balance between soup and noodles: not enough soup--we both left a big nest of noodles behind. i thought the broth was fine, but the noodles were a bit plastic-y. (not the best i've had. no images of a practiced hand out back stretching and cutting the noodles extra fresh.) i personally liked the cabbage (which we felt were perfectly crunch textured) and hard boiled egg (half) in the bowl, and we both agreed the pork was of exceptional quality. in addition, we tried to order a tonkatsu side dish--but they were sold out at 6 pm. so we got a hot fresh croquette with bits of meat in it and a dollop of japanese mayo on the side. The crust was clean and beautifully executed--very enjoyable. they have a separate colorful drink menu that will be sure to raise the guest check $4. my friend was easy prey: so we got a bubble tea (easy upsell to go to large for 50 cents more!, but soggy, limp tapiocas). service was friendly, but not 100% on top of things (forgot smaller requests like water, but were quick to correct).
just to give you benchmarks of our tastes, we do like halu ramen (a bit too fatty in broth, but we do strive to finish the whole bowl) and santa ramen. for us, we found ourselves comparing the ramen to nearby Katana-ya, which we also enjoy. Our only jibe on Katana-ya, which doesn't stop us at all, is that the broth makes you really thirsty for hours afterward (due to the salt). Not that anyone asked: but we'll probably walk to Katana-ya if we want a satisfying, flavorful bowl, sushi options, salmon rice (with the combo special for $14.50), cold draft beer, and a SF funky vibe. And regarding that vibe--I really dig being served Japanese comfort food by friendly waitresses from Estonia. I think this is how I know I'm in SF and not Tokyo. We'll go to Ajisen if we want excellent chashu, cleanly fried side dishes, fun drinks, are with a group of different tastes (and don't want to stand in line for the crowded space at Katanaya), and proximity to Nordstrom's/Westfield/Bart. I like that this may be the closest ramen-ya to a train station outside of Tokyo.
I agree with you Creuset. It's nice if you're at the mall. For me, it's convenient since I ride BART often and it's right at the Powell Street station. I do like the vibe, but it's kind of on the level of the Westfield fancy food court on the newer side ... basically fancy food at fancy prices. I'm not very impressed by the taste of the ramen, just OK, but nothing amazing, but I did like the broth in the Ajisen ramen. The shoyu and miso ramens all had a very light broth. I'm not a fan of the cabbage like some people, but it's nice to get some veggies. Chashu and egg are OK. For me, it's about the convenience and getting a quick bowl of noodles.
I have tried the rice plate and the curry pork tonkatsu can be pretty comforting, and is a big plate. The gyozas had thin skins but nothing spectacular, could have been frozen version for all I know.
All in all, like I said it's convenient. But I would rather drive to Santa ramen or Santouka in San Jose any day.
675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129
I've had the spicy pork ramen twice. It's better than anything in SF, but not as good as the San Mateo restaurants. Broth is rich and porky, though a bit too salty for my taste. The accompanying soy sauce egg is a nice thought, but flabbily executed. The noodle is average, there is some bite to it, but the texture is somewhat one-dimensional and not satisfyingly elastic. Still, a fantastic option among the otherwise lackluster options downtown.