Whether noodles are a Chinese or Italian invention, it doesn’t matter at Ajito Ism: here, the ramen, which is Chinese in origin, has been reinvented with Italian flavours. In lesser hands, this would be a disaster, written off as another cringe-inducing Asian-Western fusion food gimmick. But the chef, who goes by the name Mr M, drew on his training in French and Italian cuisines to create a bowl that, while befuddling at first, turns out to be utterly delicious.
The tsukemen (dipping) noodles are unmistakably ramen – thick, chewy and slightly doughy – but cooked al dente like the best of pasta. They are slicked with chilli and basil oil, garnished with specks of spring onions and fried shallots, and topped with baby spinach leaves, grated cheese and tomato cubes. We’d gladly eat this on its own, if not for the superior tomato-based dipping broth. Made with vegetables, pork back fat and seafood dashi, the thick broth has a meatiness that lends some depth to the sweet and tart tomatoes. Coupled with the lardy char siew and the crunchy chopped onions, this rosso tsukemen is a joy to eat.
Word has it that the chef has a lot more of these unconventional ramen creations up his sleeve (nacho-soba, anyone?), which you’ll sometimes find on today’s special. On any given day however, you can also go for another one of the popular menu staples – pizza soba. True to its name, this Italian-Japanese fusion dish is essentially dry noodles tossed with pizza toppings: tomatoes, garlic, capsicum, olives, anchovies and the likes. Again, don’t mock it until you’ve tried it.