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against it because of the long wait times. After the second attempt, I declaimed, "The heck with it!" and performed an internet search on my cell for a nearby ramen-ya. What showed up was Ajisen Ramen.
I had never heard of this particular ramen-ya before, but on arrival, I sensed that it would be alright. Later, I found the following excerpt at Ajisen's website which explains the history of the restaurant chain: "Ajisen Ramen originated from Kumamoto of Kyushu, Japan in 1968. The famous chewy, straight and thin ramen coupled with the secret recipe of our tonkotsu soup base (white soup base from which bones, meat, vegetables and other fine ingredients are cooked for many hours producing a milky white broth) has been widely commended in Japan, and has been introduced to the rest of the world since 1995. Today, Ajisen Ramen totals over 600 branches all over the world" (www.ajisen-la.com/welcome.html).
The interior of San Gabriel's Ajisen Ramen is very simple, even utilitarian. The only adornment, really, is a graphic of sumo wrestlers on one wall. "H" and I were seated in rear at a blond, wooden booth with clean lines, which I liked immediately.
What I ate:
1. Iced Caramel Milk Tea with boba (2.95 USD). The boba were kinda dinky sizewise but pleasant enough texturally - soft exterior giving way to a denser center. Flavorwise, the drink tasted like milk tea with caramel blended into it. With the purchase of an entrée, when you buy a beverage, you can get a second beverage of equal or lesser value for free.
2. Miso Ramen with BBQ Pork (7.5 USD): Ajisen's thin and straight noodles, three slices of BBQ pork, half of a marinated hard-boiled egg, wakame, shredded cabbage, and chopped green onions. I also added some vinegar from the table condiments to my bowl (shichimi and sesame seeds were available as well). The noodles were fine and the BBQ pork had a nice flavor. The hard-boiled egg was unremarkable: it couldn't hold a candle to Daikokuya's egg. (What's Daikokuya?) Finally, the broth was okay in flavor while lacking panache.
So what did "H" think about our little ramen experience? "H" had the Spicy Beef Ramen (7.5 USD, I think) and the same drink as I. She said she liked the food and even packed some leftovers for her mom to try. I think boba was new for "H" as well. I got the impression that she didn't like it; well, not as much as the ramen anyway. Altogether, I think it was a successful outing.
Parking: The parking lot at Ajisen is a merry-go-round of the damned. I bet it's a nightmare to navigate on a busy night. At least it seems there are enough spaces to go around.
The Bill: 21.15 USD for two bowls of ramen and two beverages (two beverages for the price of one).
My Rating: No star out of four stars (satisfactory). Open Sunday to Thursday, 11 AM to 10 PM, and Friday and Saturday, 11 AM to 11 PM (call to confirm). Credit cards accepted. www.ajisen-la.com
Last Word: Whenever it's too tough to score seats at the Shin-Sen-Gumi down the road, I will simply shrug my shoulders and go to Ajisen.
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