Gaijin is located in the former Cheese Shop location in the Gaslamp. The menu is interesting, featuring straight up yakitori grilled on binchotan by the former yakitori chef at Raku, along with fusion robata, noodle, and other Japanese - Italian dishes.
Coming from Hawaii, I've had my fair share of Asian Fusion that I'd term as "shibai" and after a couple of meals at Gaijin, I really think this place is trying to serve up some good stuff and do the right thing.
Like I mentioned, this place uses binchotan charcoal for the robatayaki, but during my visits, it seemed like the main yakitori guy was never making it, just usually prepping or doing other stuff. It did seem like the yakitori standards like the "momo" chicken thigh was very pale and lacking in salt.
On the other hand, the couple of times I had the tsukune, the chicken "meatball", they had allowed the "tare" to burn making it bitter. Also, they use quite a bit of ginger in the mix, which detracted from my enjoyment.
The gyutan, beef tongue is usually one of my favorites, but as with the momo, this version was under salted. For some reason they like to use a lot of black pepper here.
Same with the harami.....skirt steak.
The items I've enjoyed the best were usually wrapped in Nueske bacon, which I first tasted on one of my trips to Wisconsin or some of the more non-traditional items, like the portobello mushroom, basted with tare and finished with a touch of truffle oil.
The pork kimchi, a riff on buta-shiso also works well, as the kimchi is more of a Japanese, quick style kimchi, not overly fermented in flavor. It works well with the girlled pork, which was nicely moist.
I really loved the flavor of the Uni Green Tea Soba Noodles ($11). Don't be shocked at the portion size as this is pretty rich stuff. The uni butter and other ingredients gives this a flavor like an oceany carbonara.
I love cha soba and the problem I had with this dish is that I'm of the school that soba should always be al dente and both times I had this the soba was mushy.
My favorite dish on the menu, is not on the menu. On a visit with my good FOY Candice, who knows the Chef, they sent out this wonderful dish called Bacon and Eggs, a combination of the wonderful soft boiled ajitsuke tamago, in ramen broth, with bacon bits.
It has three of my favorite "food groups"...... You can just order it and the folks in the kitchen will know what to make. I really like this and intend of having it again soon.
The prices aren't cheap, though that's understandable based on the location. I will say that while the yakitori here isn't up to Yakyudori, I believe that it is much better than what I last had a Koubou.
The place is fairly small, but the service was very friendly, especially earlier in the evening before the place got really busy.
Going against character, I enjoyed more of the fusion style dishes than the standards. I also found that you can order single skewers even though prices are based on two skewers. I guess we're in the midst of a bit of a ramen revolution in San Diego. What I found funny was that two of the Servers are from Hawaii and they pegged me as an ex-pat kama'aina from the moment I opened my mouth!
Gaijin Noodle + Sake House
627 4th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101