Meetings in the Hillcrest area meant that I got to check out Rakitori; which lead me to wonder about the Hillcrest location of Tajima and also revisit Ouan. So here we go......
Rakitori Japanese Pub & Grill:
I recall someone; I don't quite remember who, mentioning this place, so I thought I'd give it a try.
This is a nice little spot right off hectic Washington Street....kind of trying to be hip (vegan ramen, bulgogi tacos), a few craft beers available.
Looking at the menu, I believe the place is a fusion of Korean - Japanese. The young lady waiting on me was very nice. When I ordered the Oxtail Ramen, she started explaining that this "wasn't Japanese ramen".....so I asked if it was like Gori Gomtang......and she smiled brightly and said, "oh yes, are you Korean?"
So here's my Oxtail Ramen ($10), which had everything but the kitchen sink.
So where to start with this? There was the equivalent of perhaps one oxtail worth of fairly bland oxtail meat, really not worth the asking price. The garlic actually tasted really delish in this.....well, because Gori Gomtang needs a heck of a lot of salt added....the salt provided didn't strike me as being of the best quality, making things a bit bitter. And there was a bit of scum as well, though the amount of collagen in this did well coating the straight from Nishimoto noodles (cooked adequately though). You see, no matter how much salt or pepper you add to this; the noodles just seem out of place as a vehicle for moving flavor. And that kimchi mandu, the sour flavor, just didn't go well with this whole thing to me.
The corn was a decent addition adding much needed sweetness to the bowl, the wakame I'm not so sure about.
Good gori-gomtang needs nothing but really good sea salt and a ton of green onions....this, well, had me wishing for rice instead of noodles for some reason.
Rakitori Japanese Pub & Grill
530 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
Tajima Ramen Bar:
Man, remember when this was the original location of Yakyudori...then it became something else...then Tecchan Yakitori and Izakaya, and now part of the Tajima empire.I remember the original Tajima when I had my consulting gig on San Diego (late 90's) and then when we moved here (in 2001). And while I'm not the biggest fan of the various locations, you have to admit that they have a successful formula. And this location is no different. The service here was the most polished and professional of the three places listed on this post.
I like the set-up; basically two "bar" type areas for solo/duo eating, a communal table, and several four tops.....they've got that covered. Nice, modern design.
I went with the standard tonkotsu ($8.50) with the thicker noodles, which to me, would do well with a rich tonkotsu broth.
So here's the thing...I just noticed that I have an affinity for the "chopstick-noodle thing", so maybe you can tell me what other shot I can take? First off, the egg was nice, not perfect, but decently soft boiled. The chashu was fairly tender and actually had some flavor, the temperature of the broth was nice and steaming hot. Not a big fan of bitter fried garlic in this and the tonkotsu broth was really low on the collagen/fat scale. Still, this wasn't too salty, nor did it have that "tinny" flavor of an quick "base" broth. In fact, this might be the best bowl I've had from Tajima in years, strangely much better than what I've had on Convoy. This doesn't mean I'll be driving up here for my ramen fix....but it was a nice surprise.
Tajima Ramen Bar
3739 6th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
Ramen Izakaya Ouan:
If I was doing Rakitori and Tajima, it seemed only right to revisit Ouan.
I got there a few minutes after 5pm. I was told to take any seat I wanted. To be considerate I took a seat at the bar....which turned out to be quite, well, like a visit to the twilight zone. To the right of me was the "selfie duo", who couldn't help but keep taking selfies during the entire meal....I counted 9. To the left was the "drunk and obnoxious foursome".....ripped at 5pm......two of them kept drumming on their plates with the chopsticks and singing along with whatever was playing overhead. And of course, service was a bit slow, so they couldn't help but flag down the Server and tell him, "look....we need your undivided attention and service....you take care of us and we'll take care of you..." Aaaah, selfish and condescending in one swoop! Meanwhile, the "selfie girls" ordered a cold sake....and decided that they didn't like it and wanted something better......like the hot sake! Shades of Navin Johnson, do you recall "snails on her plate"??? But who am I to judge, right?
Anyway, it took 40 minutes for my ramen, which I thought was really weird......even at places like rokurinsha, with a line that went down to forever....I've never waited that long for ramen. Having had some of the other ramen offerings here, I went with the simplest; the OG Ramen ($9).
So, getting down to brass tacks, how was this? Well first off, the noodles, in terms of texture were perfect for my taste. It basically ended there as the two tiny slivers of pork was tasteless and the broth too "shoyu forward" for my taste......I wanted a bit more shoyu/dashi balance in lieu of the lack of richness/fat in this type of shiru. The "onsen tamago" was ice cold, but there was an abundance of bamboo shoots....this could more accurately be called menma shoyu ramen.
At nine bucks, I think they could do better, sad because I love places like this.......but waiting 40 minutes for a nine dollar ramen...etc.....
Ramen Izakaya Ouan
3882 4th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103