It’s been over a year since I first encountered Rakiraki on a trip to San Diego. If I had to sum this eatery up in a sentence, it would be “love at first bite”. Since then I’ve been back several times whenever I get the opportunity. Driving to San Diego always means a bowl of ramen at some point, sometimes late at night, but this time, I met a group of friends for lunch and find a completely revamped menu, thankfully, with my favorites still intact.
We start with some Farmers’ Market Fresh Cucumbers and Tomatoes ($4.95), a perfect way to whet your appetite and get those tastebuds going. Cucumbers and vine-ripened tomatoes are marinated in Japanese pure sesame oil and red pepper chili oil. A refreshing salad of the spring time bounty you are finding at the markets right now. I like to eat it throughout the meal as a palate cleanser.
I can’t eat chicken karaage anywhere else after having the Chicken Karaage ($5.95) here. My son asks every time if we can take an order to go. Usually, restaurants tend to cut the chicken into small pieces resulting in dry, tough chicken. Here, the chicken is left in larger chunks and allowed to marinate in a tasty blend of seasonings before deep-fried to a crispy perfection, leaving the chicken moist and juicy. Served with house ponzu dipping sauce, the acid cuts the oil resulting in an addiction I can’t get over.
A new item to fall in love with is Ikageso Karaage ($5.95), crispy deep-fried delicate squid with a side of spicy Japanese mayo. I don’t need it since I love them as is and take the leftovers home warming it up in the toaster oven for a snack the following day.
I have never been a fan of takoyaki until Rakiraki’s Takoyaki ($4.95). I generally do not like the texture of this Japanese street food because of its soft mushy texture. Here, the octopus balls are dotted with a rather generous amount of of tako (octopus) bits which add a nice variation of textures when you bite into it. The accompanying mustard mayo and takoyaki sauces are flavorful, but once again, I like to eat them au naturel since they are already drizzled with takoyaki sauce with a generous topping of bonito flakes, leaving them already well-seasoned.
Chinois Custom Gyoza ($4.95) is always a hit with kids and adults alike. The wrappers are not thick and the filling light and nicely seasoned.
After eating a very dismal ramen burger at the 626 Night Market recently, I promise my son he can order one here. Tsukune Katsu California Ramen Burger ($9.75) does not disappoint. A tsukune katsu pattie is enveloped between a ramen noodle bun assembled with lettuce, tomato, spicy mayo and five-spice soy sauce using triple pressed ground chicken with shiitake and kikurage mushroom. The bun has a nice crispy texture on the outside and the chicken is beautifully seasoned. It is definitely redemption for us all.
Some of my friends have never tried the curry here, so we order Beef Katsu Setagaya 27 Curry ($9.95) to share. I love the bold flavors of this curry — I’ve had it before many times always super spicy — we order it mild this time to suit everyone’s palates. The beef katsu is tender and absolutely perfect as leftovers the following day.
But of course, what I am here for is ultimately, the ramen. Rikimaru Spicy Miso Tonkotsu Ramen ($12.75) — ordered super spicy — with flame blistered XO underbelly chashu is not only beautiful but tastes incredible. I’ve always stipulated that the broth at Rakiraki is phenomenal. Add to that perfectly textured double extra thick craft noodles and the smoky charred aromas of the underbelly and this is a bowl of absolute perfection.
I am not about to leave without the Rikimaru Spicy Miso Tonkotsu Tsukemen ($11.75) with some of that delicious flame blistered XO underbelly chashu. Boy am I glad there are many of us sharing this. I know I’m supposed to be dipping my noodles into the dipping broth and not slurping it, but I can’t help it, it is just SO good.
And how can we leave without trying the new Rikimaru Oxtail Ramen ($12.95). Those of you who love oxtail pho will love this item. A bowl of unctuous oxtail in a little broth is served alongside a bowl of premium rich and bold chicken broth ramen — utter perfection! Take a piece of oxtail, dip it into the ponzu, take a sliver of fresh ginger and put it in your mouth. Now take a bite of ramen. Repeat! I’m salivating as I’m writing this!
There is no doubt that this is my favorite ramen spot in southern California. As much as I love Rakiraki, I can’t justify a three-hour return trip just for a bowl of ramen. I’m hoping they will open a location in Orange County soon. But in the meantime, whenever I’m down in San Diego, I make it a point to dine there at least once.
4646 Convoy Street
San Diego, CA 92111