Glen Waverley VIC 3150
+61 3 9560 9018
Kingsway, the foodie epicentre of Glen Waverley, is a bit of an odd spot. For all the patrons the tiny strip of eateries can attract, half of the restaurants at any given time seem to shut down for no apparent reason and re-open as something else a month or two later. Business not doing too well, hygiene issues and having to compete with five billion other ramen cafes within a two kilometre radius – they’re all legitimate reasons for not lasting more than a year on Kingsway. So when my dad told me about a ‘really nice’ meal he had at the new Ajisen Ramen restaurant in Glen Waverley – and given how I reckon the city branch has gone to shite – I was sceptical to say the least. Another ramen place? And one that’s not even good to begin with? For reals? ‘No,’ my dad insisted, ‘This one’s really good!’ My dad may not know much about good food (he is someone who has his steak effking well done, for Pete’s sake!) but I had to admit, I was curious so on Sunday, my sister, Janice, and I allowed my folks to take us there for lunch. And hey, as much as I don’t like Ajisen’s ramen, their sizzling chicken dish (battered pieces of chicken in a bad-but-damn-good sweet and creamy batter) is tops so I could always go with that.
Sadly, the Glen Waverley branch did not have sizzling chicken on their menu. It was pretty much all ramen, but for a smattering of rice dishes and entrees. Most ramen dishes hover around the $11 mark and are big enough to curb even the hungriest. For those wanting a bit more bang for their buck, however, the samurai combo deal is available for lunchers where an extra $5 gets you whatever entree you want (except for the ebi mayonnaise) as well as green tea (which is otherwise $2 or thereabouts). Not bad, given that most entrees are around $6-7. Dad and I chose a samurai combo deal each, because we’re cool that way.
My dad chose the tofu dengaku for his entree (normally $6.50). It was a simple dish, just five deep fried tofu cubes drizzled in a sweet miso sauce that was probably store-bought. But whatever, it was perfectly cooked and tasty. Yum.
I chose a plate of takoyaki (normally $6.50) for my entree. Eying the untidy mass of deep fried octopus balls, shredded cabbage and the most bonito flakes I’ve seen on any one dish, like, ever, my parents asked me what on earth was this. I mean, my parents aren’t at all foodies but as if be Asian and not know what takoyaki is?! *facepalm* They were alright; not the crunchiest but not the soggiest either. There was a reasonable amount of octopus in each ball which was good but on the flip-side, the amount of bonito that covered the takoyaki was not.
Janice ordered a plate of tori karaage for herself and mum to share ($6.50). I’m a sucker for fried chicken so I eagerly helped myself to several pieces. After having mad-awesome fried chicken at By Korea with Shirley the other day, I couldn’t help but think that this plate of chicken failed in comparison. Look, it wasn’t bad – tasty and crispy enough and I couldn’t really fault the probably-store-bought mayo – but after having good Korean fried chicken, let’s be honest, it’s hard to ever eat tori karaage and go “Mmmmm NOM NOM NOM” with such gusto again. Bleh, but only by default.
Trying to convince my parents that I won’t be getting up to no good when I embark on my South American adventure next year (Woo Inca Trail! Woo boating along the Amazon! Woo Colombian drug lords!) was made slightly easier over steaming bowls of ramen. I’m not sure whether it was the fragrant smell of my miso chasyu ramen ($11.50) that made my parents sigh and suggest travelling somewhere closer to home (you know like, Mongolia) before going to South America (and normally, they’d be the type to overreact and be like, “NONONO YOU CANNOT GO TO SOUTH AMERICA! ABSOLUTELY NOT! NO!”) or whether they finally realised that arguing with me was a fruitless exercise. In any case, they liked my ramen as much as I did. The broth was sweet and gentle, yet still packed a decent punch to the skull in terms of bite. The noodles, while lacking in girth, were perfectly chewy and each piece of chasyu had the right amount of meat and fat for a perfect dish that warmed our hearts.
My miso chasyu ramen was only two of twenty ramen dishes that had a miso broth; every other ramen had a tonkotsu (pork) broth including the ones my parents had. My dad ordered a bowl of tori karaage ramen ($11.50) which consisted of deep fried chicken pieces which obviously got soggier as the hour progress. The tonkotsu broth wasn’t too bad – it was tasty thanks to the assistance of good ol’ MSG (but not too much, thank goodness) but lacked the lovely milkiness that you see in ramens you can get from places like Ramen Ya. My dad isn’t a fan of pork so I don’t know what compelled him to order what he ordered but even so, my ramen was miles better so it was no wonder why he kept stealing spoonfuls of miso ramen from my bowl when I was busy assuring mum that, ‘No, I won’t be taking drugs in Peru’ and ‘Yes, I will still have money to afford that home deposit when I go on my adventure.’
Mum isn’t normally one to order WTF dishes but her curry beef ramen ($12.50), with the beef WELL DONE (OMGWTF!!! GARRRRR!!) is certainly not something that even my ex-boyfriend, who used to order dishes such as crocodile with XO sauce at Vietnamese restaurants just for the lols, would order. And for good reason too. Although the menu told us that the dish had a two-chilli (out of three) rating, it wasn’t any more spicy than these chilli cheese Twisties that my darling Marty brought over from Queensland when he was visiting a few weekends ago. I can’t quite get around the idea of a ‘curry ramen’ (if I want curry in my soup, I’d get a laksa instead) so I couldn’t really enjoy it. Mum, too, didn’t really like it and also kept trying to dip into my soup for a bit of miso action.
We were full but everyone wanted green tea ice cream so we ordered three servings to share between the four of us (for some reason, this reminded me of yum cha – you know how each steamer normally contains three dumplings? – and made me laugh). I can’t remember how much the ice cream cost but it was pretty damn good green tea ice cream – if they had charged $10 for it, I would have happily paid it. It was heavy on the earthy green tea taste with the slightest hint of sweetness coming through. One bowl had some red bean mixture drizzled over it but I didn’t get a chance to tap that (probably because I was convincing my mother that Peru is, in fact, a safe country and that no, all the reports of violent demonstrations in Lima have been exaggerated). A perfect way to end what was surprisingly a decent lunch.