Saipan’s restaurant market continues to expand with the entry of Japan-based food chain Ajisen Ramen, which brings in the authentic and rich Kyushu Tonkotsu (pork) broth to the island. Ajisen opened last night after a couple of days of training the staff.
Ajisen’s franchise is owned and operated by Oishi CNMI LLC with Jay Onedera as one of the partners. It is sister restaurant of nearby IHOP, whose franchise is under Pacific Pancakes LLC under president Richard Hart.
IHOP general manager Michael T. Valencia also supervises Ajisen that has a working staff of 30, both in the kitchen and dine in area. Four trainers from Guam and one Japanese chef from Ajisen’s Hong Kong branch helped in preparing the staff for its daily operations.
Valencia said that all of their ingredients, from the noodles to the seasonings, are all imported from Japan to make sure the taste and quality stays the same. “We must follow the same standards and quality of all Ajisen outlets worldwide.”
“So if you go to Ajisen in Japan or their other outlets, the taste and the way the food is prepared must always remain the same,” said Valencia, who has a more than 15 years experience in the food and restaurant industry.
He said that it would not be easy juggling his time with Ajisen and IHOP. “I’ve been in the restaurant industry for a long time. You really need dedication in handling the operations. We’re facing a big challenge in front of us since these are international restaurants.
“These are brand name establishments that have a reputation and standard to maintain. Once the everything in our system of operations are in place, I can breathe a lot easier,” added Valencia, who also previously worked at Hard Rock Café Saipan.
Valencia said he would also promote some of his staff at Ajisen. “I would help those who want advancement especially promote those who have leadership skills. I’ll need supervisors since I’m handling the operations of two restaurants.”
“Everyday you learn something new that’s why we will be rotating our staff in other stations for them to experience the different areas here in the restaurant. Seeing some of your staff grow and someday get promoted, either here or in another restaurant, that is really priceless.”
Ajisen seats 50 people, including a mini function room for 10 people. It has a counter that has five stools, similar to the typical Japanese ramen house you can find in the streets of Tokyo or other places in Japan.
Even the way staff wear bandanas are patterned on how Japanese laborers tie theirs on their heads. Another striking interior design is the row of ramen bowls hanging on the wall. “It is very simple design but it adds a nice touch and vibe at our restaurant.
Trainer Richard Ubaldo said the Volcano Ramen is considered to be Ajisen’s specialty and is among the favorites even in other outlets. “But if you don’t like spicy food, we have a very simple ramen that is water based and shoyu sauce.”
Ubaldo, who works behind the scenes as one of the trainers of the kitchen staff, said Ajisen’s broth is special where they boil pork meat including the bones. “We boil it until the broth becomes white and that adds more flavor.”
Ajisen, established in 1968 in Kumamoto Prefecture in Japan, arrived in the Marianas six years ago as a small noodle house franchise in Guam that later expanded to a bigger branch. They now have two branches in Dededo and Tamuning.
Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam are the other countries that have an Ajisen outlet that is outside Japan aside from the CNMI and Guam.
For more information on Ajisen Saipan, call 233-0304 or 233-0305. Ajisen Saipan is along Beach Road Garapan right beside IHOP across from TSL Plaza.