My lunch at Tajima..*long*
My husband and I were down in SD for 4 days, for our anniversary. After hearing from the board how good Tajima had been talked of (plus, we were craving okonomiyaki), we drove to the Convoy address and had lunch there yesterday.
We also noticed there is a second Tajima, across the street from the Mitsuwa market. Allmost went there, but decided on the main resturaunt. Does it have the same menu as the Convoy one?
At around 1:30 we arrived. It was decently busy, but got seated and my cup of tea was soon at the table. My husband decided on the pork okonomiyaki, and I ordered the spicy ramen with thin noodles and tonkatsu broth.
I do know that my husband and I tend to be picky on certain things. He really dislikes the bonito shavings on his Japanese food in general, but most especially on okonomiyaki. We asked for no bonito shavings, but got it anyways..>_< Quickly removing them before they "melted" into the mayonaisse and okonomiyaki sauce, we gave it a try. It's been since 2001 we've had okonomiyaki, and i've really been wanting some.
Tajima's was....Not the best, but not the worst. It wasen't cooked long enough and was a bit gummy, and the cabbage was chopped in larger pieces than we like. (we prefer shredded..makes the texture lighter) BUT...The wonderful flavor was there, and that made us happy. It -also- made us realize we need to make this treat at home, so we have it just perfect for our likes.
My ramen?? Hmmm..I didn't like it very much. Tajima seems to use fish-stock/bonito shavings in their broth for ramen (even the tonkatsu-style) and the fishiness I coulden't help but notice. It also wasen't spicy in the least.
We also got gyoza, and they were only passable. Probably frozen from a bag bought at Mitsuwa. The request for more La-Yu chili oil from the waitress was met with a scant teaspoon delivered to the table in a small dish. This stuff is NOT expensive, and good ramen/gyoza places have a bottle at every table.
We really wanted to love Tajima, and went with an open mind, eager for really great Japanese food. Sorry to say, we probably won't be rushing back next time we are in SD.
Thank you so much for reporting on this place. I have not yet been there - but your report may have saved me from spending money on sub-par food - esp. with the Izakaya around the corner.
That's a shame about your experience. I too find their okonomiyaki too be just OK. The version served at Sakura is much better. Very light in texture, and not gummy in the least.
On my last visit to SD, I ate at Tajima for the first time as well. Had the ramen with the tonkatsu broth. I actually liked the broth and the half of a hard boiled egg. Noodles were OK. BBQed pork pretty mediocre. I've certainly had worse lunches, but didn't really see much reason to return either with all the other choices the Convoy area presents.
KirkK: well said, though I wouldn't go so far as to say unfortunately...
Tajima does have the best tonkotsu ramen, or for that matter the best ramen, in San Diego. And recalling the uninspiring ramen offerings from the pre-Tajima days, no apologies are needed for what Tajima has contributed to the still-nascent S.D. ramen scene. Add to that their brilliant move of opening up a "business in a business" with their Ramen Nights menu @ Tajima Ramen House, finally we're starting to get a post-midnight Japanese food scene as well.
...and thumbs up for their kakuni-ramen (Ramen Nights only), where they made the very wise choice of serving it with a shio broth. This acts as a foil to tone down the heady kakuni, in what would otherwise be a less-refined bowl had it been paired with the tonkotsu broth... There's enough umami-rich goodness in the kakuni alone, (though of course Sakura's kakuni is still tops), without turning up the volume to "11"...
(I do occaisionally indulge in an over-the-top off-scale heart-stopping umami experience and turn the volume up to "11", but this is reserved for my visits to Daikokuya whereupon every fourth visit or so I'll do it "kotteri"...)
As far as for the okonomiyaki, it's a personal preference kind of thing... In Japan where often the customer can grill their own, one can control the relative doneness themselves. In a situation like Tajima's where they do not specialize in it and therefore cannot allow the customer to cook it themselves, it's a forced compromise. As for me I have a tendency to prefer it on the slightly under-cooked side, so their offering fits the bill for me.
It sure would be fun if an authentic okonomiyaki/monjya house were to open in S.D. I think such an operation could do quite well in the Kearny Mesa area, especially with all of the Japanese foreign students in the area who can always benefit from a "cheap eat"...