3015 Adams Avenue, North Park
Once found mostly on Convoy Boulevard in Kearny Mesa, noodle spots have lately popped up in hipster neighborhoods such as Little Italy, North Park, Hillcrest, and University Heights.
Tajima started as a small restaurant in Kearny Mesa as a popular place for college students wanting a cozy place to study till the late hours that wasn’t a Denny’s. Today there are locations in Hillcrest, East Village, Clairemont, Tijuana, and now on Adams Avenue. This newest edition is called Tajima North Park despite being, to my mind, smack dab in University Heights.
Geographical disagreements aside, I’m happy Tajima is finding success, and I hope it continues to the point where I get one closer to my home in La Mesa (I’d settle for SDSU).
I brought my family to the Tajima University Heights — sorry, I mean “North Park” — on a cold Friday night, which is the perfect situation to enjoy its soups. Ramen is the perfect way to finish a hectic week and start a relaxing weekend. As Ian Anderson pointed out in March, “going to a ramen bar and not ordering noodles feels like going to a steakhouse and ordering a pasta dish. It’s just being bad at life.”
Of course we were going to get soup, but Tajima has tempting appetizers such as gyoza ($5), a favorite dish of my kids no matter where we eat, and garlic edamame ($4). The gyoza was good, no complaints. But the garlic edamame was more of a stand-out. The garlic seems almost sweet, in a good way, and it paired well with the slightly green flavor of the soybeans.
I am also a fan of the tempura brussel sprouts ($4), which I first tried at the Hillcrest location. They are deep-fried but also sautéed in butter and Ponzu sauce. Some Yelp reviews have pointed out that the sprouts at the Adams Avenue location haven’t seemed thoroughly cooked, something I noticed with my order. My wife wants you to know that is the way she likes them, Yelpers be damned.
The other appetizer we loved was the Takoyaki ($5), basically octopus fritters topped with bonito flakes (dried fish flakes, I explained to my son as he devouring them), mayo, and brown sauce. They were sweet and savory. I would love to see a Japanese-style spaghetti and meatball dish using these and rice noodles.
As far as the Ramen soups go, I was happy with the Creamy Chicken ($9), especially after I put some chili flakes in it. It had that umami mouth feel that takes things to another level. Perfect cold weather comfort food. My daughter got the traditional Tonkotsu Soup ($11), which is a broth made with pork and served with your choice of chicken or pork. She chose pork. It was delectable. She couldn’t finish it, and the leftovers were tasty the next day.
My wife liked but didn’t love the Vegan Ramen ($9.50), mainly because the tofu had no flavor and didn’t add anything to the dish. She said she’d get it again but next time ask for more veggies and no tofu.
We weren’t sure if my son would like ramen, so we got him Pork Fried Rice ($5.50). He liked it but wanted to try our soups and ended up liking those more. Lesson learned on both sides.
Tajima’s continued expansion is a good thing for San Diegans, especially if they expand to places outside of the usual restaurant neighborhoods. I look forward to many more ramens with them.