4646 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa
If you were to chart the key terms used by San Diego food writers in 2016, top of the list would be ramen, poke, sushi burrito, and Little Italy.
Enter Rakiraki. The ramen (and ramen burger) specialist branched into raw fish food trends earlier this year when it launched its Pokirrito franchise, so when the business turned its attention to joining the Little Italy dining boom, it brought both entities.
Situated on the corner of India at Juniper, the restaurant is split down the middle with a sushi burrito and poke bowl counter to the left and a ramen counter further back to the right. In essence, friends quibbling over which culinary trend to embrace during a given meal may split up, order their food, and reconvene in the shared dining room.
My approach was to go with my mood. Though I visited in the middle of the afternoon, it was a rainy afternoon, so digging into Rakiraki broth seemed appropriate. My friend had other ideas and disappeared to get a Pokirrito.
I confess, writing about ramen gets tougher the more I do it, so I find myself looking for anything different to highlight. Luckily, this place embraces variety. The Hakata tonkotsu broth is terrific on its own, but you may dress it up with a choice of spicy miso, roasted black garlic oil, or fermented chile-pepper paste. I’ve tried that last one, called “red edition” jukusei, and enjoyed the spicy kick — though a guy at the next table almost couldn’t take it.
The next time I decided to go with the black garlic but skip the tonkotsu. Instead of the pork broth I opted for the “super premium chicken.” They wouldn’t tell me what made it super or premium, but the aburi chicken topping I got with it is said to be organic and to my satisfaction it pulled apart easily. It better have, considering I could have paid a little extra to enjoy some aromatic, braised oxtail or “flame blistered” pork belly in its stead. Or kurobuta pig feet, if I were feeling adventurous.
But I was feeling like garlicky chicken broth on a rainy day, and I probably could not have done better. I could see the little beads of oil floating in the rich broth, and by eating it I felt I’d become impervious to cold.