curry age mono ramen, Ajida

I’m tempted to launch a parallel rant to Monday’s barbecue tirade, this one about our troubling ramen situation. Just like the glut of unexceptional barbecue dilettantes that’s swamped the city, the tide of new ramen joints is mostly unimpressive too. With one notable suburban exception and another arguably acceptable one in Chinatown, most are attempting to do too many things instead of focusing on just one. I was going to hold up the Loop’s Ajida as the poster child for this epidemic of mediocrity. It has a full menu of appetizers, salads, desserts, and yakitori in addition to five different ramen styles. Not a good sign in the first place, but its execution of classic pork-based tonkotsu and miso ramen put it in the running for the saddest bowl of soup in town. It’s hard to even look past the thin, insipid broth these are built on—though you could practically read through it—to examine the totality of each bowl.

But let’s stay positive. Ajida makes its own noodles, offering square-extruded, thin and thick ramen noodles, plus udon noodles. Given the sorry nature of the broth there’s no better use for it than in a bowl of the dry curry age mono ramen. Typically Japanese curry is eaten with udon noodles (if not rice), but Ajida’s thick ramen noodles work just as well. They arrive buried under a substantial fried-pork cutlet* (aka tonkatsu, not to be confused with tonkotsu), sectioned for easy chopsticking, and topped with fresh scallions and a heap of soft potatoes and carrots cooked in the mildly spicy, subtly sweet curried gravy.

My pals at the table quickly abandoned their bowls of miso and tonkotsu ramen and began to pillage my bowl. “Curry and noodles?” one observed bitterly. “It’s hard to fuck that up.”

Ajida, 201 N. Wells, 312-332-6878,

*Shrimp and chicken are other options.