Following a previous post about some truly soul rejuvenating and memorable bowls of ramen we'd slurped on while on holiday in Christchurch NZ, Hungry Hamster left a comment enquiring about whether decent puveyors of ramen exist here in Melbourne. Well the short answer was that I really hadn't stumbled across that many to provide any decent recommendations. The best I could come up with was to suggest Ajisen Ramen in the city where at least there was a readily accessible range of ramen choices on offer and global franchise notwithstanding, the bowls of noodles we've had there were not bad if not particularly outstanding. The nihon-authenticity of Ajisen's ramen is probably debated, although the franchise boasts of their Kyushu (Kumamoto city) style tonkotsu (pork bones)-based stock broth. Most of the ramen dishes centre around this tasty milky coloured broth served in voluminous bakelite-like bowls accompanied by matching ladles to sup with.
We visited Ajisen Ramen again recently and had a Chashu (pork) Ramen and the Karaage (deep-fried chicken) Ramen. Ajisen's bowls of ramen offer substantial individual meals, filled generously with soup along with the meat of choice, mix of shredded vegetables, seaweed strips, and halves of hardboiled egg. The ramen noodles were quite satisfyingly to-the-bite and the broth as tasty as I recalled from our last visit, although the soup in the karaage ramen was too oily from the fried chicken pieces for complete guilt-free enjoyment. The chashu ramen went down much better and I would certainly stick to the plainer options on future visits.
Bowls of ramen here are around about the $10 mark and the very extensive laminated-card menu also offers a variety of other a la carte choices, plus donburi and bento set boxes. But of course the ramen is what most come here for. Overall a quick and handy ramen fix but I guess we're still looking for that truly memorable ramen experience here in Melbourne.
Food: 3 spots - If ramen is what you're here for.
Service: 3 spots - Depends on mood of Asian student on the day but generally quick.
Value: 3.5 spots - There are cheaper noodles around but this is good value for the grade of food and dining space.
R-Factor: 3.5 spots - Not our first visit and likely not our last.
Spot Score: 13/20
130 Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC.