The mention of Rickshaw Corner to many people I know elicit comments such as "you'd never catch me dead eating there", and "WHAT, that's like one step above Panda Express". I guess part of the problem is the sign that says "Chinese & Japanese Cuisine", that scares people off, and smacks of fast food.
The interior doesn't really do anything to change your opinion. Nor does the plastic "menu", a plastic sheet with "Chinese Menu " printed on one side, and "Japanese Menu" printed on the other.
So what makes Rickshaw rise above the usual neighborhood generic Asian restaurant? I usually visit Rickshaw once or twice a year, when the weather gets a bit colder, and only get one dish. The spicy Chow Ma Soup Noodles(Chow Ma Mein-$5.95):
Now I haven't had this at any other restaurant, so have not developed a "baseline" for comparison. The Missus has heard of Chow Ma Mein, but has never had it. So what's to like? The nice spicy broth has a real "Korean" flavor, like the broth in Soon Tofu. I'm not a real fan of food being first stir-fried and then dumped on top of a soup, but in this case it's not too bad. Mainly because the pork, shrimp, bamboo shoots, and other vegetables are stir fried with dried chilies that adds another layer of heat. In addition there are large slices of garlic and several pieces of Zhacai (Sichuan preserved vegetable) that help give the soup even more "zip". The Bad? Well the noodles pretty much suck, no better then brittle "spaghetti" in broth. And of course there the bad side of stir-frying ingredients, then adding them to a soup often times mean that flavor that can be imparted to the soup never makes it. I thought it was rather ironic that one of the most inexpensive items on the menu, is probably the best. Another funny thing; every time I order this, I'm asked if I'm Korean......
On one of my recent visits, when looking up at the pictures of dishes above the counter I noticed what was called Chef's Special Beef Noodle Soup. I asked the Young Lady if the Beef Noodle Soup was Niu Rou Mein, and in a very surprised manner said "yes...". I guess I wasn't supposed to know that? So I thought I'd make a return visit and try the Niu Rou Mein($5.95):
Well, I had a feeling it was going to be the stir fried beef dumped into soup; but I just had to find out for myself. And unfortunately it was just stir fried beef dumped on top of the soup. The soup was nice and spicy, but was rather weak in the "beef flavor" department. The beef was fairly tender, but didn't have much flavor. And I really don't know what to do about the stir fried tomatoes. The same lousy noodles really didn't help this dish very much.
So that's about it, right? Well not quite; as I was paying, a Gentleman walked up to the counter and picked-up his order, and was conversing in Mandarin. He was the first Asian I recall seeing here. As I left I held the door open for Him as he was carrying a pretty large order. So we struck up a brief conversation. Seems that he's been coming here for over 10 years! He made some recommendations of a few items I should try. So I made one more take-out visit.
Hot and Spicy Won Ton($4.25):
More like Won Ton in teriyaki sauce. Not spicy, quite sweet. Won Ton skins were really thick.
Basically, battered and deep fried chicken strips with a gooey brown sauce. The sauce was too sweet and very one-dimensional. The chicken were expertly fried and moist. But not really worth the eight bucks.
And lastly, the menu item that came with a strong recommendation. The Chicken Wings in Hot Garlic Sauce($8.25):
This chicken was puzzling to me. There were chilies, but not very much spice. I really couldn't detect much garlic flavor. The chicken was obviously fried, but not crunchy. There was not much of a soy sauce flavor, and though it was slightly "sticky", the wings were not very sweet. I truly wish that there was something taste-wise that stood out, but nothing really did. Call it non-committal wings. Not bad, not great, not what I'll order again.
I'll still go to Rickshaw, but I'm sticking with the Chow Ma Mein. If anyone knows of any other restaurant that makes a good Chow Ma Mein here in San Diego, I'd like to know. Rickshaw is a nice neighborhood Chinese/Teriyaki joint, and is a step above those Chinese Fast Food joints.
10428 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92124