For this issue’s food review, the PressureLife crew visited Aji Noodle Bar, located at 13606 Madison Avenue in Lakewood. If the location seems familiar, it’s because Aji took over the old Yuzu space this summer. Will Aji make a big splash with our critics or be a souper disappointment? Read on to find out for yourself.
There was a lot of buzz and excitement when Yuzu announced Owner Jackie Kim would take over the space with Aji Noodle Bar. We went a week after it opened and I wasn’t thrilled. The three appetizers seemed like they came from the frozen food section at GFS. With that said, the wings we had were my favorite thing we tasted (we actually ordered a second round). The pork belly rice bowl was a bit sweet for my taste. This was similar to Hannah’s Udon bowl, as the noodles almost had an elephant ear vibe to them. Alex’s pork ramen was alright, but a bit fatty for me. I think Aji could slim down the menu a bit and focus on the fresh dishes. There is a future for Aji, but I wish we would’ve waited another month or two for them to work out the kinks.
I love a good noodle soup. Whether it’s ramen, pho, or some other heartwarming bowl of tasty delights, there’s a good chance I’m going to give it a try if I see it on a menu. So, how was Aji’s ramen? Both the shoyu ramen and tempura udon were pretty solid. Neither was mind-bendingly good, but it’s certainly not a bad addition to the region – especially, if you have that craving for something that’ll warm your soul. As for the other dinner items we tried, it was hit and miss. The spring rolls weren’t anything to write home about, but it’s a review, so I should mention they were subpar. The wings were nice and juicy, to the point where we put in a second order of them. The pork belly bowl had potential, but it was too sweet for its own good. After a few bites, you needed to add some spice to cut through the sauce. In all, not bad, although there’s room for improvement.
I, admittedly, wasn’t over the moon to try this place. I think I still have a bit of PTSD from Yuzu’s depressing atmosphere and their subpar airplane food. I was, however, pleasantly surprised at the work that was done to refresh the space – much brighter and more inviting than the previous cave-like feel. We started with various appetizers, one of them being a specific recommendation from our server. While Jim swears they are all straight from the GFS freezer (and I guess I tend to agree with him), I had no complaints about the wings, spring rolls, or dumplings other than they could have belonged to any Asian restaurant. I wasn’t overly impressed by any of the main dishes. Everything was fine. The only thing I was actually put off by was the pork in Dave’s pork belly rice bowl – it was extremely chewy, and fatty. All in all, there were certainly some positive changes to the menu and the space, but unless the first 50 restaurants in town that are on my list are closed, I likely won’t be back.
Ramen is one of those foods that turns even the semi-know-it-alls into real douchey snobs. I promise this won’t be that.
We were sat at the window seat, a window that used to be opaque with stacked board games a couple of months ago when this building was still Yuzu. The remodel is very clean and neutral, very bright during the day, which is not a complaint. We ended up ordering an array of appetizers, including a second plate of chicken wings that tasted almost exactly like McNuggets – again, not a complaint. The spring rolls were pretty run-of-the-mill, nice sauce vehicles. The main course was two different kinds of ramen and a pork belly rice bowl for me. The pork was sweet and the fat melted upon tongue contact, but there wasn’t much else to it. I much preferred the shoyu ramen to the tempura udon, but both were tasty as hell. I’ll be back in winter with my wind-chapped face over a bowl of shoyu ramen taking deep breaths of that steamy broth. There is not another restaurant serving this style of food within 20 blocks of Aji. I see no reason why they wouldn’t become a neighborhood staple.