Friday, April 17, 2009

Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel (Closed)

Aji Man. From the name and the logo featuring a cute old man, I thought Aji Man Japanese Restaurant in San Gabriel was a copycat version of Ajisen Ramen, a world-wide chain with a logo of a winking little girl.

How wrong I was.

Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel 1

Imagine my surprise when I read in Around Alhambra (Click on the April 2009 edition, section B, page 11.) that Aji Man is actually owned by a Japanese family, Osami Sasaki, his wife, Mieko, and their son Takatumi. Osami grew up in Kobe, Japan and was trained as a sushi chef before switching over to ramen.

His ramen is Hokkaido-style, a lighter and clearer stock than the milky Kyushu-style tonkotsu broth that's popular at restaurants such as Daikokuya and Santouka. At Aji Man, the ramen is cooked at a lower flame for a clearer broth, and combines pork bones and fish.

Aji Man is located next to Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant so parking can be a bit of a pain at peak hours.

Recently, I went with cousin Q, his brothers, and sister-in-law. We ordered the Shio (Japanese Salt) Ramen for $6.25. The broth was quite lighter in appearance and taste than the shio tonkotsu ramen that I'm used to eating at Santouka.

Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel 2

The Shoyu (Japanese Soy Sauce) Ramen, also $6.25, fared better since the soy sauce added more flavor.

Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel 3

The miso ramen for $6.45 was way too salty and strong. We all shared so we had smaller bowls and mixed in half the broth of the shio with the miso for a happier medium.

Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel 4

What I really liked were the noodles. The curly noodles hold much more sauce than typically straight ramen noodles. Though they looked fat and possibly water-logged, they were actually quite firm, chewy, slurpilicious. The pork was a leaner cut, but quite tender given that there wasn't any fat.

Altogether, pretty good for a local mom-and-pop joint, and definitely for when I'm not in the mood for driving far to satisfy my ramen craving.

Then I got home, re-read the article and realized that we hadn't ordered the Sapporo ramen, Osami's signature style. Obviously, I had to go back and remedy that. So the next day, since lil' sis was in town, I talked her into going with me.

We each got a complimentary order of California rolls for mentioning an ad in a certain magazine. You'll have to do your own detective work there since I don't want to send them to the poor house giving everyone free California rolls. But, yes, one for me and one for lil' sis. Free hot tea as well.

Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel 5

I ordered a spicy tuna roll for $3. Most excellent. There are a few hand rolls and larger rolls offered on the menu so that Osami's sushi skills don't get rusty. The spicy tuna had a different flavor from what I'm used to, but in a good way. The portion was also very generous.

Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel 6

Lil' sis ordered the unagi hand roll for $3.50. This was also very good as well.

Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel 7

Ah, the signature Sapporo miso ramen for $7.45. The broth had a lot more complexity than the shio, shoyu, or miso flavors. The miso flavor was more muted, offset by the sweetness of butter, another component of Sapporo-style ramen. The corn, green onion, and mound of bean sprouts was also typical. I know it seems odd to have corn and butter in a ramen, but in this case, it totally worked and I was in love with the broth. Lil' sis loves, loves, loves bean sprouts, so having half the bowl full of it worked for her. The pork was the same as in the other ramens, but chopped into cubes instead.

Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel 8

A close-up of those luscious noodles.

Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel 9

On Thursdays, the shoyu ramen is just $5. And for their one-year anniversary, Friday, April 17th and Saturday, April 18th, the shio and shoyu ramens are only $3 (Dine in only.). $3! What are you waiting for?

After their anniversary is over, do come back and try the signature Sapporo miso ramen.

My other ramen posts:
Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo)
Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl - Monterey Park
Foo Foo Tei Noodle House - Monterey Park (Closed)
Santouka - Costa Mesa
Santouka - Los Angeles
Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen - Gardena
Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen - Rosemead

Aji Man Japanese Restaurant
821 W. Las Tunas Dr.
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

1 year ago today, Dau Hu Chien (Vietnamese Fried Tofu).
2 years ago today, lemon garlic roast chicken at Versailles Cuban Food Restaurant - Culver City.


  1. Thanks for a run-down of the different kinds of Japanese ramen -- more than I knew anything about! Your description of the Sapporo sounds terrific. And the spicy tuna hand roll did look fabulous.

  2. oh *sigh* all of that looks so delicious!

    Might have to cook noodles for lunch to deal with the cravings you've stirred up by your photos!

    My verification word sounds like it could be a fantastic ramen noodles soup dish: mashmegi!

  3. FYI, Wandering Chopsticks will be Blog of the Month for October on Tried and Tasted.

  4. Wow all looks so great! And I'm absolutely in love with their sign.

  5. My favorite is the spicy tuna roll. Your photos are terrific but I'm sure you've been told that many times before. I'm impressed with the prices - much lower than I would have thought for such beautiful food.

  6. Nikki,
    I didn't really know or appreciate all the different types of ramen until I started blogging. It's amazing how much more I remember about what I eat.

    Mashmegi sounds like a dashi broth with some seaweed strips and fried tofu. ;)

    Thanks for letting me know. So nervous! Wondering how many people will be participating.

    I've never eaten Sapporo miso ramen anywhere else to compare, but I did like this a lot.

    The spicy tuna roll was particularly fabulous. Thanks! I'm just using a point and shoot so the camera sometimes has its moments.

  7. I love ramen ! I really love ramen from Ajisen !
    Do you have any suggestion on what kind of noodle to use to cook ramen ? I only find those like instant noodles and it's just not the same as the ones they serve at the restaurant. Thanx

  8. Thao,
    You mean if you can't find fresh ramen noodles where you are? I think egg noodles, like chow mein or lo mein might be the next best available?


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