Forget about burgers, it seems that San Diego is going thru a bit of a "ramen renaissance", first Yamadaya opens and then a couple of weeks back I get an email from FOY (friend of yoso) "Faye" with a photo of RakiRaki, followed a few minutes later with a text from "YY" with almost the same photo. Add this to the Santouka's, Tajima's, Yakyudori, and even places like Red Noodle and Izakaya Sakura, with a couple of other Japanese/Sushi joints now serving ramen and you've got a major noodle-ish explosion going on.
I did visit soon after I received the email (thanks Faye!) and text messages.
At that time, RakiRaki was open for dinner only, as a soft opening. Although based on the crowds, I'd say that this was probably the worst kept secret in the area....plus, how can you miss the place.
At first glance I liked the look of the place, nice woods, the somewhat rustic cafe look. But after sitting at the counter my opinion changed. The seats seemed too low, making the counter quite high, which felt strange. Sort of the "little kid at the soda fountain" feeling.
Actually, a soft opening was probably a good idea as the crew obviously needed a bit of training. After I was seated, a menu was handed to me, and then they scattered like the wind. Busy putting together menus or wiping glasses while I sat waiting to order. When I finally ordered, everything snapped together and went efficiently, perhaps a little on the too eager efficient side as my check arrived a few seconds after my Tsukemen ($8.25 then, now $8.75), which I ordered since it was zillion degrees outside.
In short, this Tsukemen was quite good, rich and thick, but not overly salty like the version at Yamadaya. Nice rich flavors that hit the mark just below salty for me. The broth, though chicken based really didn't strike me as being too "fowl oriented" and I sensed a bit of a dashi-like background. The noodles really hit the mark for me, medium thick, with an excellent chew that almost closed in on a crunch.
The service, in spite of the delays and such, was very friendly, making it worth the fight to get in and out of this cursed parking lot.
I was told that the grand opening would occur on October 25th, after which they'd be open for lunch at 11, which is a great time for that parking lot. I drove by on the 26th at a bit past 11 and the place was closed. Curious, I returned; on a quiet Sunday evening. The time between visits seemed to make some difference; I was greeted at the door and immediately seated at one of the tables. Gotta watch the step in though, I saw one guy almost fall on his face tripping on it. The stools I saw at these tables had been replaced by hard wooden chairs that reminded me of the stuff we sit on in school, but at least it felt okay height-wise. I went with the "Premium" Ramen ($7.75 then, now $8.25) with pork chashu.
This broth had a much more assertive chicken flavor and was pretty salty. To me, it's sort of a "tweener", between a rich tonkotsu, this was more oily than rich, and a shio. The noodles, as on my previous visit was excellent, though the portion seemed a bit small. Loved the pork chashu, it had some texture to it with a nice soy-mild sweet pork flavor.
The service was very nice and wonderfully friendly. When I mentioned the grand opening, I was told that it was now November first. By this time Dennis (of course), had already done a post, and Kirbie had done not just one, but two posts on the place!
So just by coincidence I found (wink-wink, nod-nod) myself in the area on the first at just a few minutes after eleven and scored maybe the last parking spot in the lot. Hey, it must have been fate, right? I was again seated at the counter and watch the place fill up fast. The place was well staffed for a grand opening, which would be over-staffed. Service was a breeze....I went with the Original ($7.25) and curiosity made me add oxtail to my ramen ($4).
The broth was just mildly salty, you could make out the chicken flavor with what really does seem like "bonito-ish" tones. It was fairly straight-forward as broth goes, though a nice change of pace from the really rich tonkotsu style or the by-the-numbers shoyu/shio ramen. The noodles were a bit overcooked on this visit, but still better than what I'll usually get at "second-tier" ramen places in San Diego.
As for the oxtail. If this is the standard issue version; I'd say save your money. First, it was undercooked. I don't want it falling apart, but this was on the tough side. It was impossible to separate what meat there was from the bone, so I just had to grab it and gnaw away at the darn thing. The oxtail was good sized, but there was only one, which was also pretty bland, and not worth the extra $4.
The two young ladies who served me worked quite well together, they were both very friendly. The prices seem to have gone up about half-a-buck from the soft opening, though the menu has a few more items on it.
So what about that "front page" blurb regarding Chef Takeo Araki, etc? This reminded me of the stuff Chabuton and the like place on their menu. I just kinda get that glazed over look and move elsewhere. Alkaline water is a big trend now; just ask the Missus who "blows in the wind like a stalk of wheat" to whatever the "latest thing" is. Jyosui, the parent company of RakiRaki is a water purification company.....connect the dots? Never really heard of Chef Takeo Araki either. Still, if you enjoy the ramen/tsukemen, it doesn't really matter, does it?
RakiRaki Ramen and Tsukemen
4646 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111