Toronto Bites: Date Night at Ajisen and Teashop 168!

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(Top row) Ajisen’s Spicy Miso Ramen and Deep Fried Chicken Set + (bottom row) Teashop 168’s Watermelon Italian Soda and Red and White Funnel Cake

Mikaius and I went on a Pokémon X/Y date last week! He’s playing Y and I’m playing X, so there were some game-exclusive stones and Pokémon that we wanted to trade with each other. Both of us having grown up playing some iteration of Pokémon card games and watching the original series, we’re both a little obsessed with the 3DS games. I try to do the side quests and catch as many Pokémon as I can, and Mikaius has been on an evolving kick lately. It’s loads of fun for us, and a simple way to relieve stress between classes and work.

We met up rather late, though, so we decided to make a night of it and grab dinner and dessert. I mean, if we’re going on a dinner date, that means we’re not little children playing Pokemon… right? The night was chilly and called for steaming hot food to warm up our insides while we traded, so we hit up Ajisen Ramen for dinner, and Tea Shop 168 for dessert.

Dani: Walking into Ajisen has always felt like walking into a welcoming hug, especially on shivery winter nights. It wasn’t snowing, but that breeze sure was determined to knock everything over! I’ve eaten at Ajisen a couple of times and I’ve never had a bad experience – my favourites from the ramen menu are the deep-fried chicken ramen, the pork ramen, and the Ajisen ramen. Crazy good! The broth is always so savoury, the noodles are just the way I like them, and the bowls are giant.

Mikaius: For me, Ajisen is about new flavours. I’ve only been to a handful of ramen places, but I’ve never had a bad bowl. Every time I visit a restaurant, I like to try something I haven’t had before. One of the things I like about Ajisen is the wide selection of flavours, even if a lot of them are little tweaks. A bit of spice here, some miso there, pork instead of chicken, that kind of thing. Ajisen isn’t my top for ramen, as they use a thicker noodle that I find a bit too-much-noodle for my ramen-wants. I’m a sabaw-guy (note: sabaw is soup/broth in Tagalog).

Dani: Tonight, I decided to order something from the rice set menu because of two reasons: one, I had not eaten rice at all that day, and two, I wanted to know how their rice dishes measured up when stacked against the ramen dishes. I ordered the fried chicken rice set, and it came with miso soup and veggies, a healthy serving of fried chicken chunks, and a bowl of rice sprinkled with sesame seeds. It was fantastic! I kind of regret that not getting ramen since Mikaius’ bowl looked so appealing, but I was not at all disappointed with the quality of the rice set. The warm tea they serve with the food helped warm up my frozen insides. The fried chicken was tender and flavourful, and the rice was cooked perfectly. I would probably not have it again, but that’s simply because the ramen menu has so many other items that I want to try as well!

Mikaius: I ordered the Spicy Miso Soup. I love miso soup. I love ramen. I love spicy. It just made sense, especially since I am always nagging Dani that I want something with miso and I always forget to order it. The sabaw was fantastic, but unfortunately the cold had worked its devil magic on my nose. I couldn’t taste particularly well, as my nose had turned into a leaking-clogged mess. However, the spice was good and powerful and helped to punch that out. A perfect soup on a cold night. Unfortunately, because of the combination of cold-nose and spicy, I couldn’t really taste the miso. So I’m still craving that, just a plain miso soup. Dani’s chicken went really well with the sabaw, though, left to soak in and soften a bit, it was delicious. It was fantastic when poured over rice. This also marks the first time I’ve never had the stomach to finish off my ramen, with just a fingernail’s height of sabaw left in the bowl. I’ll have to try it again, when the weather is better and my nose has feeling in it.

Dani: For dessert, we shared a watermelon Italian soda and a Red-and-White Funnel cake, which came with strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream. Both were a disappointment, which was massive letdown for me because I frequent the Teashop 168 at Yonge and Steeles and I’m an avid fan! Maybe the Italian soda was a flop because watermelon isn’t a sharp enough flavor to carry over into Italian soda, but that funnel cake was burnt. The ice cream was really good, as were the strawberries, but there was no excuse for that burnt funnel cake. Service was awkward and weird, and took a long time as well – a group who ordered about 5-10 minutes after we did were served first, and our food was brought to the wrong table before it was brought to us.

Mikaius: The Tea Shop wasn’t great, we really just went in for Italian soda. With my penchant for always-new flavours, I picked our drink. I should have known watermelon wouldn’t have had much flavour, but it was particularly weak. The funnel cake was, unfortunately, lifeless. It was just kind of crispy and unappealing, not helped by my entirely sabaw-filled stomach. The wait sucked, but in that time, I managed to trade all the Pokémon I needed to, and each one of ‘em evolved into something awesome!

Dani: I will wholeheartedly recommend Ajisen to anybody and everybody! 4.5/5 is how good they are – and it has been a pretty consistent experience. The North York branch of Teashop 168, however, I would probably not. 2.5/5, mostly because of that burnt funnel cake.

Mike: Ajisen may not be my favourite, but that’s only because of the noodles they use. I can’t recommend it enough, 4/5. I’d recommend Tea Shop 168 as a franchise, but not the one we went to, at least, not at that time of day, 2/5 because I managed to trade a bunch of Pokémon.

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