As promised, the Brunch with Bear team is warming up your winter, one bowl of ramen at a time! This time around, we bring you to Ajisen Ramen, an international group of ramen houses. Following a little excursion relating to the Empire State Building back in the fall, a friend and I agreed to go to dinner and we walked past Ajisen Ramen, enticed by the idea of warm soup noodles.
Ajisen, according to their website, was established in 1968 in Japan, and has since branched out around the world to many countries, including China and the United States. Their distinct logo of a little girl holding a bowl of ramen is visible across the country, from my homeland of Southern California to their location in Midtown Manhattan.
This particular branch is located in the middle of the flower markets on 28th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. The shop is a short walk away from the 28th Street stops on the 1, 6, N, and R trains, and near the local attractions of Herald Square and the Flatiron Building. Easy to stop in and grab a cheap, warm bite!
Unless you’ve seen it elsewhere before, Ajisen doesn’t look like an international chain at first sight. The little plastic sushi plates in the window and worn furniture suggest more of a neighborhood feel, like A-12, rather than the expected cut-and-paste look of a franchise. The table was set with chopsticks and a little trio of chili oil, furikake (the special seaweed salt seasoning), and soy sauce, suggesting that the restaurant anticipated customers familiar with eating ramen.
Our waitress was friendly and brought our water out very quickly. The best part was that the menu clearly stated, “Please notify us of any food allergies.” I ordered the original Ajisen ramen, which had a very basic pork-bone broth with classic toppings of roast pork, egg, seaweed, bean sprouts, and scallion. For those uninitiated, this bowl of ramen is probably the most typical set of ingredients, and a great introduction to ramen!
The broth was creamy but the waitress assured me that there was absolutely no dairy in the ramen, just a creamy look due to the rich pork bone origins of the broth. While I generally prefer the clear shoyu style of ramen, this pork broth was very flavorful and salty, and gave the ramen a fuller flavor. It was greasy but in a comforting, I’m-finally-getting-to-eat-this-enormous-taco way. I also love the addition of the soft-boiled egg and the seaweed—even though they are common ingredients in ramen, they seemed to go well with the greasy pork soup.
Ajisen was similarly priced to other ramen adventures but very well-priced for Midtown eateries, where even a drink at Starbucks could cost you your favorite beret. As I’ve mentioned before, ramen is a comfort food to me, and one that is best shared with friends. I enjoyed sharing a meal at Ajisen and look forward to perhaps seeing a few of its other international locations in the not-too-distant future!