(Chasyu ramen at Ajisen Ramen in Hawthorn)
It is a fact of life that all good things must come to an end. And so my year of maternity leave is over and I am now back at work. As much as I really enjoy working, I have no time to even eat out as much, let alone keeping this blog updated.
But try, I must. And happily, I would like to welcome 2012 with an annoucement that I have found The Best Ramen In Melbourne. So far anyway.
Now I know what you think. Ajisen? Chain ramen? Pah! But really, this Ajisen is so different from all the Ajisen ramen I have had (and I have had them in four different countries including the one in Melbourne CBD).
(Ajisen Hawthorn menu)
We went to Ajisen Ramen in Hawthorn because it is basically the closest ramen joint to us and one weeknight when I have a craving for ramen (I do that), I decided that we should give this new(ish) joint a go. It was rather quiet with only one or two patrons. I suspect that, being near Swinburne University and right at the lobby of UniLodge, it does a bit more roaring trade during the lunch hours.
Ajisen does their ramen Kumamoto style – that is, with tonkotsu broth (rich, white, pork bone broth) that has been cut with a little bit of chicken stock. The result is a lovely well balance broth that, while fairly rich and fragrant with its pork fat glory (yes, I said pork fat glory, get over it), is not so stickly fatty and rich that you feel ill after two spoonfuls (though admittedly I have absolutely no issue putting away a large bowl of one.)
Josh went for the Chasyu ramen ($11) which turned out to be the absolutely correct choice. The broth was delicious. Excellent balance between great flavours and not too salty or rich. The noodle was bitey and firm. The roast pork, or chashu, was so meltingly tender and just so damn perfect. The crunchy wood ear strips provided a great balance of texture. The egg was just a touch too well done for my liking but I’m happy to report that I have been back twice since and the egg is now perfectly soft boiled.
What a great bowl of ramen.
(Volcano ramen – $12?)
Unfortunately for me though, on our first trip, because I was in a mood for spicy ramen, I ordered their Volcano ramen. It was a mistake. The Ajisen volcano sauce in this instance was so overpoweringly spicy and bitter than it completely ruined the dish.
But I can’t complain. It was my fault to order their random bastardised version of ramen. So don’t complain to me if you had gone and ordered something silly like grilled salmon ramen and come back and complain to me that it’s rubbish. Just stick to the original charshu ramen and you will be right as rain.
(chahan, fried rice with chashu roast pork – $5.50)
I also ordered a chahan, a Japanese-style fried rice for Mini Me, who at the age of one, showed as much appreciation for it as she possibly could. The fried rice was served in a disposable container. Not a very good impression. I read on their website some rubbish about disposable container being more green. They must have been on drugs. Anyway, I’m happy to report that they stopped doing that on my last visit and Mini Me’s fried rice was served in an appropriate reusable bowl.
(Takoyaki – $6.5?)
We also ordered a side of takoyaki which turned out to be, I suspect, frozen takoyaki that had been deep fried and had been smothered in lots of mayonaise. A typical vulgar way of serving takoyaki in Melbourne which the traditionalist in me simply didn’t approve of but my palate rather enjoyed the crunchy balls with flavourful fillings. We also ordered a couple of yakitori chicken skewers which were also deep-fried in the same fashion as the takoyaki but nevertheless quite tasty if I wasn’t so fussy. Josh and Mini Me agreed.
Did I mention it was cheap? By god, it was cheap. And we’re not talking about tacky Laminex surrrounding type joint here.
And best of all, it’s in my neighbourhood. Go on. Make the trip. Order their Chasyu Ramen and ignore everything else and you will be rewarded with a really good, quite authentic bowl of Kumamoto ramen.
But guess what? I’m off to Sydney this weekend. With a very lucky last minute Momofuku Seoibo booking. And possibly a chance to try out the famous Gumshara ramen too.
Ajisen Ramen Hawthorn
Address: 367 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn, VIC 3122
Phone number: 03 9818 0818