Sometimes you have to resort to slumming it. This week we are in Karuizawa, a mountain resort town which is unfortunately also home to a large outlet mall. Being that most of the shops are American, and that the goods are twice the price of the American outlets, this holds no appeal for me. We went. And it was decided that we would eat lunch here despite several ramen shops in town. I had to choose between Ajihe Ramen and another shop which was even less appealing in the food court. I chose Ajihe.
Once inside I ordered the spicy miso (karamiso) ramen, the day being a little cold and damp. The soup was topped with a slice of chashu, nori, moyashi, sesame seeds and cabbage. It appeared very red in color. Sadly it was only mildly spicy. The noodles were average, and the chashu was surprisingly good, but on the whole this was very run-of-the-mill. Food service food. There was nothing special here, but not much to criticize either. As I dined to the sounds of Danny's Song(Even though we ain't got money) by Loggins and Messina and Chucky's In Love it struck me how there was a similarity between the music and the food. Not offensive, but not good either.
2 1/2 bowls.
The next day we rode out to the Onioshidashi Lava Rocks outside of town. I figured for sure that this day we would have to give the ramen a miss. Then we found Demon Volcano Ramen right there next to the food court. The menu looked like I'd be in for more of the same as yesterday, roadside attraction food service, but everyone wanted ramen today so who was I to say no. There were several options here that I found appealing, especially the mountain vegetable ramen, but when I heard the name of one ramen was Volcano Ramen, I had to see just how hot it was. We all ordered, and as I sat to wait for the lunch, KISS came over the boom box in the corner, I Was Made For Loving You. Maybe we were in for an improvement over yesterday.
Looks hot right? It was especially at first. The broth was spicy miso again, but this time there was some kick to it. Not Tom-yam or kimchee jigae, but still pretty hot. It seemed like they had put chili oil on top. The real heat didn't last through the whole bowl, but the broth was very good.
The toppings, corn, bean sprouts and green onions formed a mountain on top of the bowl, clever. The wakame seaweed however was just off to the side. I don't like corn on ramen, though it is fairly common. I feel like it just falls away as you eat and it requires a special effort to seek out with chopsticks. It all ends up on the bottom of the bowl. Also, there was no pork which everyone else's soup had or menma which several others had. Mine was the most expensive soup, which means you are paying for a gimmick. I object. The noodles were fair if slightly past where they should have been cooked, but not bad.
Overall I gave this 3 1/2 bowls.