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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.

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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        ed

        1. i agree with you about the ramen. Some people priase Tajima but i just never found it all that special

          1 Reply
          1. re: clayfu

            I agree. I ordered the same spicy ramen noodles as the OP and wasn't impressed. It seemed like something I could have made at home. Nothing unique about it. My GF ordered the pork okonomiyaki, which I actually thought was pretty tasty; first time I've had okonomiyaki though.

          2. Unfortunately, Tajima has the best Tonkotsu style ramen in San Diego....but if you've ever had decent Tonkotsu(not Tonkatsu) style ramen, at say Santouka, Shin Sen Gumi, Daikokuya, or any one of dozens of ramen houses elsewhere you will be disappointed.

            3 Replies
            1. re: KirkK

              Yes, that's pretty much the way I saw it. I've eaten at Daikokuya, and their broth is far superior.

              I just wish it was spicier, as well.

              1. re: KirkK

                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"...

                1. re: cgfan

                  I think I'd pay admission to watch okonomiyaki neophytes make and eat monja-yaki...
                  I kind of wonder how a okonomiyaki place would do in San Diego. I still thought that Takoyaki Gen would do really well in Little Tokyo, but it went under rather quickly.

              2. I think of Tajima as an option for late nights eats. I often go when I've flown into SD late, awell after dinnertime. I like their udon, even though it's always searing hot and takes me forever to eat. The broth isn't great, but it's passable and hits the spot on a cold night. Their okonomiyaki is too gummy for me, just as Honeychan described. I make it at home mostly, because I'm particular about it. It's odd you got stingy service, as they've usually been generous with us. Even gave us someone else's order by mistake once, and let us eat it even though they caught it before we chowed down. Nice servers in my experience. Sorry you had that issue.

                1 Reply
                1. re: amyzan

                  I don't know if anyone feels the same way, but I thought the food was better under Tajima's previous ownership. Granted, the menu was smaller without all those Izakaya style dishes, and service was slower, but I thought that more care was taken with what was served. The okonomiyaki was always done well, we now make our own at home as well, and the ramen broth was richer and tasted better.

                2. Having eating my way through ramen shops while living in Japan for over three years, my favorite broth was the Tonkotsu style. And of all the places I tried ramen in San Diego; Tajima is the best that I found.

                  I think that the broth has changed a tad with the new ownership…but not much. As far as the rest of the food at Tajima, the wife and her daughter (both Japanese) always jump at the chance to eat there and they always say “oishii” at least 4-5 times during the meal.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: pbhomey

                    Pbhomey: I've been to Tokyo twice myself, and for me, I had better tasting tonkatsu ramen in Ikebukuro, than what Tajima offers. I'm just not a fan of bonito being used in ramen broth, regardless of the type. (hey- I do eat it, it's just not my preferred)*EDIT* I see, your speaking in refrence to SD..

                    I'm glad to know that Tajima has it's fans and that there are those who really like the way they do their flavors. If your ever out in Las Vegas and want -great- ramen, I can give you a few tips on great places here. I'm glad we did try Tajima, tho. It was a good break-up for our meals of Mexican and seafood we allways gorge ourselves on in SD.

                    Next trip we'll be trying Sakura, and Ba-Ren

                    1. re: Honeychan

                      Only once to Tokyo for me but; I will be in sin city in two weeks, what do you recomend Honeychan? As far as Tajima, while I think thier okonomiake is a bit dense, I like it all the same. The Hamburg steak is way tasty, as are the deep fried oysters.

                      1. re: Captain Jack

                        bellagio buffet =P all you can eat creme brulee? yes plz

                      2. re: Honeychan

                        “I'm glad to know that Tajima has it's fans”

                        So right honeychan, in fact, most of the fans are Japanese! Having eaten at Tajima at least 20 times, I noticed that 90% to 95% of their customers are Japanese, which does say something for the place…IMO.

                        1. re: pbhomey

                          When we were there on Tuesday, we weren't the only Anglos eating. 2 others were also there, granted they happened to have someone who was Asian with them as well.

                          I'm sorry, but I'm taking your posts as defensive towards Tajima. That's great you and your family like them. We just didn't that much. To each their own.

                          1. re: pbhomey

                            it says alot of japanese people like ramen and they'd prefer to go with one that's more japanese culture wise than say Chopsticks which you know is geared toward americans.

                            i.e. Always see chinese people at XXXXXXX chinese restaurant. Doesn't mean its good.

                            1. re: clayfu

                              This is why I don’t eat at Chopsticks.

                              I beg to differ, I always see many Chinese eating at China Max and Ba Ren and find the food to be quite good at both places. It is human nature for cultures to gather at places that provide comfort food for their cultures and background. This is why Tajima is so popular with Japanese, including my family. Sakura is better, but it is not your typical Japanese Izakaya.

                              1. re: pbhomey

                                you argue with yourself in your post.
                                you say you beg to differ to my opinion because you see so many chinese. Then you say its human nature for cultures to gather.

                                reason #2? that's exactly my argument. and you reinforced it by saying Tajima is popular because its so familiar to your culture. It says nothing about it being tasty.

                                1. re: clayfu

                                  Clayfu, maybe I’m eating at the wrong place. Where would you recommend for the best ramen in San Diego?

                                  1. re: pbhomey

                                    i honestly have no recommendations. I just dont find any of the places in SD so special. Because of that i'd just find the cheapest place that gives me the most food.

                                    and..... i rarely eat ramen sober. But the many times i have gone to Tajima (due to them being the only places open at 2am) i haven't been impressed for how much i'm spending.

                                    1. re: clayfu

                                      Whoah, drunkness followed by late-night ramen. This sounds fun. Are there any ramen places open fairly late that are a better value?

                                      1. re: mangiatore

                                        no =( that's why we always end up there.
                                        every other place in SD closes at 10 i believe.

                                        1. re: clayfu

                                          Sounds like I will have to stumble over to Tajima the next time I have a few too many microbrews at O'briens.

                                          1. re: MrKrispy

                                            That's EXACTLY what I had in mind.

                      3. I think this place is way overhyped.
                        My wife and I had the vegetable Ramen and it was not good.
                        I'm not Japanese but I thought the menu selection was lacking.
                        The best Ramen I have ever had - Ala Moana food court in Honolulu, forgot the name of the place though.

                        1. I really like Tajima. It's very reasonably priced. The hamburg steak is very yummy and the ramen is not bad. I love it when they have the scallops on the hibachi special, those are awesome! As for okonomiyaki, it's not that great, I'd prefer it off the grill of course, but what can ya do?

                          1. I ate at Tajima today after reading the somewhat mixed reviews.

                            As for me, I loved it.

                            There are precious few places in San Diego to get Tonkotsu Ramen, and I was not disappointed in the least by Tajima's. Tonkotsu can sometimes be overly greasy and cloying, and I loved Tajima's dashi-flavored broth. The thin noodles were the right texture and very delicious, and the toppings were authentic, fresh, and well balanced.

                            I drank all the soup. That's always a good sign.

                            I have been a regular at Chopstix for well over 15 years, and like the shoyu ramen there, but I thought Tajima was a great change of pace and I will definitely return.

                            Nostalgia note: my first ramen restaurant experience was in the late 80s or early 90s at Mr. Noodle, which used to occupy the same space as Tajima now does. It was a nice trip down memory lane.

                            Peter G

                            1. My 2c to a 8 month old post...

                              Since about 6 months ago, the Mercury Rd Tajima location has been a part of wife and mine's regular rotation. Though this locations menu is not as strong in the ramen dept, I much prefer the parking situation and the waiting area. Unlike the Convoy location, the parking is plentiful and since I'm normally there Friday or Sat nights, the other businesses in the mall are normally closed so I can easily judge the wait from the car (and adjust appropriately ;)
                              They've just changed the seating arrangements in the past 2 weeks or so and it makes for more tables but tighter aisles - I kind of miss the big tables as it made for a more "local bar" feeling, but to each his own.
                              I am not Japenese (or remotely close to anything but pure "whitey" ;), but I always come away from Tajima with a smile and feeling of contentedness. My wife and I frequently joke about how this style of food seems to be our comfort food despite the fact that we were introduced it in the past 2 years.
                              On that note, our faves are: Seaweed Salad, Beef Tataki, Miso Ramen and any of the fried foods (Gyoza, Karage, etc). I've yet to try any of the rolls, but the sashimi has always been fresh and never disappointing.
                              Count me in as one the "fans".