San Diego has some seriously decent Asian restaurants, clearly evident as you drive down Convoy Street, on both sides of Balboa. From Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and a few Vietnamese thrown in, you’re never short of choices whenever that craving hits.
I usually go to Rakiraki for ramen, but on this occasion, I’m at Tajima instead. It is mid-afternoon and the restaurant is packed — always a great sign. There are four choices of ramen broth: Soy Sauce and Tonkotsu ($8.50); Curry and Miso ($9). Choose from thin, fat or gluten free noodles. Besides the chashu, half ramen egg, green onions, sesame seeds, and Japanese seaweed which comes on all the bowls, there is also a list of additional toppings to choose from.
But before ramen, we begin with some appetizers. I want to try things on the menu and Karaage ($5) is always a good place to start. The one here is good. I like the size of the pieces — not too large so there is more circumference to the crispiness.
Omelette Yakisoba ($10) is not usually something I order, however, even with the mayo and the sweet sauce drizzle, it is not overly sweet. I rather enjoy this, but it definitely is something for the table to share.
If you order one item on the menu, please make it the Kakuni Bun ($5). This is one of THE BEST pork belly baos I have ever eaten. The juicy pork belly is extremely tender with a rich, savory sauce. The soft bun soaks up some of the beautiful sauce, and is not too thick. I absolutely detest thick buns with unequal meat ratio. The cucumber and daikon sprouts add a refreshing crunch to the finish. Absolutely incredible!
Salmon Poke Bowl ($11) is somewhat of a misnomer. It is not quite salmon poke, but more so a salmon sashimi bowl. The salmon is cut into thick slices which have been marinated in a sweet and spicy sauce. The bowl is layered with rice, avocado as well as a combination of green and white onions. It tastes good, but it is not a poke bowl.
Of course, we are here for the ramen and it is time to see how it compares to the rest of what Convoy has to offer. We order the traditional Tonkotsu ($8.50) with thin noodles. I really enjoy the rich milky broth which is prepared with pork and chicken bones, as well as various vegetables including white onions, green onions, garlic, ginger and kombu kelp. The ramen is the traditional kind and possess good elasticity. The broth is robust without being cloying, also very welcoming.
With the increasing amount of restaurants recognizing the need to include menu items for vegan customers, I am curious about Tajima Vegan Ramen ($9). I hear several people at the table next to us order it, so I am even more eager to try. The vegan ramen broth is prepared using kombu kelp, dried shiitake mushrooms, soymilk as well as green and white onions and ito togarashi (red pepper shards) as garnish.
The spinach noodles are chewy and quite tasty. In the broth, there are corn kernels, seasonal vegetables, fried tofu slices, and a broth that is flavored with black garlic oil.
Another house signature is Spicy Sesame Ramen ($10) using tonkotsu soup as its base mixed with a special sesame paste. The soup is dotted with ground pork, and slices of pork chashu, bean sprouts, half a ramen egg, chives and fried garlic.
Select the fat noodles to go with this particular broth. In fact, out of all the noodles we try, the fat noodles are my favorite, and you may ask your server for them with any of the choices you select from the menu.
More restaurants should offer vegetarian and vegan options to attract a diverse clientele into their establishment. Tajima is definitely ahead of its time, and continues to grow with locations in San Diego’s Hillcrest as well as East Village. There is another location not far from the original location on Convoy, off Mercury. Parking can be challenging in this plaza, so be mindful when you go there.
Tajima — Convoy
4681 Convoy Street
San Diego, CA 92111