ramen rating: ajisen ramen – irvine, ca

ajisen ramen
Ajisen Ramen started out in the late 1960’s as a ramenya in Kumamoto, Japan, serving “Kumamoto Tonkotsu” ramen, a tonkotsu ramen served with a garlic and onion brown sauce. Since their humble beginnings, they’ve expanded to more than 300 stores worldwide and their Chinese joint venture even trades as a public company on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

ajisen ramen

I have to admit I’m biased against Ajisen Ramen…they’re a franchise chain, and my years-ago first experience with Ajisen Ramen in Shanghai didn’t exactly make me jump for joy. Ok, I actually thought it was horrible. On the plus side, though, I found their decor to be elegant, and I was charmed by the winking mascot (who also has a cartoon series and is apparently fond of throwing cleavers). Of course, nice decor and cute mascots can’t make up for subpar ramen. When I heard that Ajisen’s Irvine branch finally opened this week, I approached the news with something akin to morbid curiosity.

Ajisen’s most popular dish seems to be their Paiku Ramen (“Tender Pork Ribs” ramen), but I decided to start my day off with the namesake Ajisen Ramen. One thing I noticed while seated at the counter: all the servers scurried about at a “gotta get to where I’m going” pace. If you’ve ever been to Hong Kong, where even the elevators and escalators are sped up, you know what I’m talking about. Don’t get me wrong, the servers were all extremely friendly and professional. But I felt just a bit compelled to order, eat my ramen, and leave as quickly as possible.

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When I got my ramen, I was a bit dismayed: the chashu slices looked like miniature versions of what I saw pictured on the menu. With so many strikes so far, I was still determined to keep an open mind, and I took my first sip of the soup…it was good! Now, it wasn’t mindblowingly good, but still, it was good. The Ajisen web site claims that the tonkotsu soup is cooked for over 10 hours to give it a rich and deep taste. Well…not quite. The soup was a bit on the light side, but the mild garlic flavor and creaminess blended well.

ajisen ramen

The noodles were a bit thicker than the thin noodles I typically associate with tonkotsu ramen, and also not as hard. While Kumamoto ramen is supposed to have slightly softer noodles, I couldn’t help but wish they were a bit more chewy. The softer noodles did contrast well with the crunchy cabbage and the result tones down the overall flavor even more. A variety of other toppings… negi, wakame seaweed, half a hard boiled egg, and chashu round out the ramen. The hard boiled egg was disappointingly hard boiled, and it tasted like the marinade consisted of one ingredient: soy sauce. I’d heard good things about the chashu, but was slightly disappointed to find that it wasn’t particularly fatty. The chashu had browned edges, and was slightly sweet and carmelized. It reminded me more of the kind of chashu you’d find in Chinese cooking (which does tend to have a harder texture and a sweeter taste) than in Japanese ramen.

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Overall, I found Ajisen Ramen to be “good enough.” If you’re a hardcore ramen fanatic, looking for that genuine Japanese Ramen, you might want to keep looking. But if you’re new to ramenyas, or you want to try a lighter tasting ramen, you should give Ajisen a try. Ajisen rates a 6 out of 10 in my book.

Bonus: Ajisen commercials

Ajisen Ramen
2700 Alton Pkwy, suite 145
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 833-3288
Sun-Thurs: 11am to 10pm
Fri & Sat: 11am to 11pm

Ajisen Ramen on Urbanspoon

  21 comments for “ramen rating: ajisen ramen – irvine, ca

  1. G
    11/28/2008 at 5:26 pm

    G’day from Australia!

    Been following your blog sporadically, since it’s not updated as often as I’d like πŸ˜›

    Ajisen has a franchise here in Melbourne, and their quality of ramen is usually better than the experience you’ve just endured D:

    It is unfortunate your chashu and egg were so poorly made (from the picture, the egg looks like it’s been sitting on a bench for a few days before being served, and the chashu looks like its been bought from a nearby chinese restaurant and served as is :P), but I can tell you from my more regular dining at our Ajisen, it is much better πŸ™

    On a last note, I’d have to agree that their Spicy Miso and Paiku Ramen are the best on offer πŸ˜€

  2. 11/28/2008 at 8:42 pm

    Hi G, thanks for following along enough to know I’m been lazy recently! Hahaha. I’ll strive to do better! Hmm…I wonder if I can convince my wife to go to Australia to taste the difference. I was in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics and enjoyed every minute! The Paiku Ramen and the “Premium Pork” Ramen are on the top of my list to try so I’ll report back as soon as I do.

  3. cutie
    12/4/2008 at 1:17 pm

    very cute mascot but in general, the ramens are a bit of pricy though 😯

  4. 12/9/2008 at 10:24 am

    Hi Edjusted,

    Another great review. πŸ™‚ I also tried the new Ajisen in Irvine with great hesitation and unfortunately found it to be decent at best. For me, the MSG Overload here was pretty bad, the Chashu (like you) was terrible, and the Egg was also bad. It’s nowhere near as good as the Ajisen in Kabukicho, Tokyo that I tried.

  5. 12/9/2008 at 9:34 pm

    Thanks, Exile Kiss! Yeah, I’ve been avoiding Ajisen like the plague for years ever since my 1st experience in Shanghai, but since this one’s actually close to my house, I just *had* to try it. Haha!

  6. 1/1/2009 at 9:23 am

    Yep, same here. This has to be one of the worst ramen ya in SGV. Granted it was in SGV, but this place along with the Fuji ramen in New/Valley Blvd are right up there as the worst noodle experience of any given kind in quite a long time.

  7. 1/4/2009 at 9:04 pm

    Pepsi Monster: yeah, I still wouldn’t consider Ajisen good “ramen.” But as “soup noodles,” I was pleasantly surprised…this was way better than what I had in Shanghai!

  8. boulangeramen
    1/7/2009 at 9:09 pm

    i don’t know why everyone is hating so hard but i just got back from ajisen and it was awesome! i had the spicy pork and it was really really good. maybe you’re thinking, who is this gaijin, he knows nothing of ramen; but i’d like to think i deserve a little more credit than that. I just returned from japan and ate so much ramen from so many different places. i’m trying every ramen shop i can possibly get to and so far ajisen is one of my favorites. I know it’s a chain and all that; but they are open late and it is irvine. Really though, i love that they have curry ramen, and a few different kinds. I know that’s not up the alley of the altruistic uptight haterators; but i don’t care. I like it all!

  9. 1/8/2009 at 8:25 pm

    boulangeramen, always great to hear from someone who loves ramen. Another nice thing about the Irvine Ajisen is the people are pretty friendly. I was taking pics of the kitchen and the cooks all stopped and posed. Hahaha.

  10. angkukueh
    2/25/2009 at 9:45 pm

    does anyone know if the Sydney Ajisen sell their ready/instant stock in sachets?

  11. angkukueh
    2/25/2009 at 9:49 pm

    sorry, i mean the melbourne Ajisen… πŸ˜›

  12. 3/1/2009 at 5:05 pm

    @angkukueh: I’m not sure if the instant ramen version of Ajisen ramen is sold outside of Japan. Can anyone help?

  13. 4/12/2009 at 2:45 pm

    The foods looks delicious!..
    Can I have some?
    Can I?
    Please.. πŸ™‚
    Love the mascot too!.. πŸ˜‰

  14. Jackie
    7/27/2009 at 1:25 am


    don’t go there! service is poor.

    Angela ( Chen Yuan Yuan), at Yang Gao Central Road, besides Lotus Supermarket in Shanghai, China.

    Rude, dirty and poor attitude.

    Place is dirty. Restaurent is also dirty place.

    July 27 at around 7pm. Manager is also dirty and rude.

    Kitchen is dirty. Angela is flirting with other waiter. and ask the waiter to buy her movie ticket.

  15. Mina
    8/4/2009 at 12:25 am

    @G – I have only been to one Ajisen and that has been here in Melbourne. I’m a Californian who has been having ramen withdrawal ever since I got here! Ajisen is horrible. Although their soup has an alright flavor, the noodles we got were definitely not ramen noodles. They were almost exactly like spaghetti noodles! Quite disappointing and a bit gross. If you want good ramen, try the tonkotsu ramen at Kenzan (@ the GPO). But hurry! Thy only have it during the winter!

    @edjusted – nice review! I so miss Irvine πŸ™

  16. 8/4/2009 at 9:28 pm

    @Mina: Thanks! I’ve been to Sydney but not Melbourne. So there’s no other ramen there except Ajisen?

    • Mina
      10/27/2009 at 8:08 am

      @edjusted – Sorry for the delay. Luckily, after exploring around a bit, I have found a few good places to get ramen. Kenzan at the GPO on the corner of Elizabeth St. and Bourke St. has great tonkotsu ramen during the winter. The ramen shop next door, aptly named Ramen-ya, also has great tonkotsu ramen but instead of using fatty pork belly (my favorite), they use char siu. I would say the tonkotsu ramen is better at Ramen-ya, but the fatty pork belly is quite divine at Kenzan. If you ever make it here down under, you must try them out! Definitely stay away from Momotarou Ramen, though. ICK!!

      @angkukueh – yes, they do!

      • 10/27/2009 at 11:06 pm

        @Mina: awesome. If I’m ever in Melbourne, I now know where to eat!

  17. RamenGaiden
    9/8/2009 at 2:30 pm

    Doesn’t like it – I have to say that Ramen has become so over played in the US, in terms of the gimmicks that these places try in order to get people in the door. Mind you the food is good. But the pricing is something that you would expect to see somewhere out in a resort town. This place is in the middle of “Asian Central” in terms of its location. Yet they continually rip off the college kids from UCI. What also sucks is the attitude. Sure they yell out the “cheesey” – Ira Shai Mase! That you get at any Japanese themed restaurant. But I really think the place is run by a bunch of Chinese managers. What sucks is that they run it like a Chinese restaurant. The attitudes of the management staff suck. The wait staff in whole are good and attentive. But god forbid you get the guy manager who looks like he is a character from the Sony Final Fantasy Games – or the chick she wears glasses and never smiles. Both are about late 20s to early 30s. They are the dynamic duo in black – they wear black button down shirts and slacks. If you’ve got food allergies – plan on sitting in while your party eats without you. The place does not allow (ANY KIND-even though people sneak boba drinks in) outside food of any kind. The managers will make a scene! They may say Ira Shai Mase! – but the Japanese attitude and respect is lost through a belief that all Asians are as rude as Chinese people.
    Lastly, here’s the actual math. They will charge upwards of $8 for a bowl of their most basic ramen. That is with no frills or specials – just the soup and noodles. At another restaurant with the same Ramen Theme (that is also a big Japanese Chain call “FUJI-ICHIBAN” – their logo is a turtle) They break down the math to show people what goes into making the bowl. In total a bowl of ramen (basic) will cost a company about $1.50 to make. That’s 1 bowl no frills or specials. Fujiichiban charges about $5. And believe me the quality in Fujiichiban’s noodles is #1 because they make their stuff daily (all within their locations – that’s one of their attractions – they show it all behind the counter so that you see the start to the finish). The quality in Ajisen is lost in the fact that they are GOUGING the consumer severely – compounded by the lousy service – and the fact that they cannot openly declare what goes into their food – in the event that you or a guest are allergic to food products being served.
    Try and eat at the place once or twice, but just know that you are getting ripped off by people who are expecting you to enjoy the fact that you are getting ripped off. In regards to the attitudes of the management staff, all I can say is that racially you people bring a huge discredit to the Japanese community through your lousy attempts at imitation! For the unsuspecting western consumer – you will see what I mean when they try to cram you between some very rude customers at the “community table” – it’s like a pig trough that over-eager ADHD-Chinese customers like to dine at!

  18. 9/13/2009 at 9:04 pm

    @RamenGaiden: I’d love to hear your opinion about Pei Wei’s new “Japanese Chile Beef Ramen!”

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