To most, ramen noodles don’t invoke the kinds of feelings associated with a positive dining experience. They recall harsher days, when it was fun to joke with your friends that you only had $1.27 in your checking account… as long as they didn’t find out that you actually had $1.27 in your checking account. It was a time when you could dump a packet of multicolored sodium crystals all over a bed of noodles without a pang of guilt, because you were young, and your body could take it. Both those days are over. You made it! You graduated from the University of Ramen, and never looked back. We did, too, until we spent an afternoon at Ajisen Ramen on Mott street.
Ajisen is one of several Japanese spots that have recently begun populating Chinatown with a taste of the islands. This is not the ramen you’re used to eating. An international chain dedicated to bringing ramen to the culinary stage, Ajisen prides itself on the highest quality ingredients, authentic decor, and delicious food that doesn’t rely on ramen’s traditional friends, M, S, and G.
A library of Japanese manga awaits
Once you’ve ordered your food (Spicy Shredded Beef Ramen and Chicken Teriyaki Ramen in our case), grab a manga comic book from the available library and pretend you can read Japanese (or, if you can, go for it!). While your food won’t come in 1 minute and 30 seconds like the ramen from your college years, it should arrive at your table within 5-10 minutes.
If spice is your priority, try the spicy shredded beef ramen for a reasonable $8.50. The soup is layered, so you eat it in the order it’s intended to be eaten. Once you’ve cleared the spicy beef, you’ll take on a forest of bamboo shoots, followed by a group of vegetables led by the might carrot. Finally, a surprise bed of rare beef that’s slowly cooked all the while, and plenty of noodles see you off. If you’re in the mood for something a bit different, try the chicken teriyaki ramen or the Ajisen deluxe ramen, both $7.50.
What may have been your low expectations in trying an authentic ramen restaurant will hopefully have been set aside with this week’s trip to Chinatown. If not, the inviting atmosphere, young, friendly Japanese staff, and incredibly fresh and flavorful dishes will make you wish you’d always taken ramen this seriously. Welcome to grad school. Until next week!