North Park continues its complete and total domination as a leading hot craft-and-culinary neighborhood in San Diego with the addition of Tajima's fifth San Diego location, now open at 3015 Adams Ave next to the new-ish Et Voila French Bistro. Located just steps away from the corner of Adams Ave and 30th St (in that squishy area restaurants boast as North Park but reallllly should be considered Normal Heights), the Art-Deco-meets-Japanese-influence venue designed by BASILE Studio boasts 1,300sqft of pure ramen paradise for up to 48 people at a time.
Not as obviously BASILE-esque as many of the studio’s other projects (marble and copper accents are kept to a pleasantly surprising minimum), the new Tajima’s interior mixes luxurious Asian-inspired touches like red lacquer booths and polished wood paneling with more rustic accents like exposed beams and brick to create a cozy blend of opulence and approachability. It's the most industrial of its SD locations, but that doesn't make it any less homey than the others.
But TBH, who really cares about how cutting edge the interior is when the food is even better? The Japanese ramen chain Tajima continues its dedication to authentic noodles by mirroring its existing East Village and Hillcrest locations’ menus, offering five different ramen styles that range from traditional tonkotsu to a more Americanized vegan option.
“We’re very much the original traditional ramen in San Diego. We know what San Diegans like and don’t necessarily serve ‘American-style’ -- it’s ‘San Diego’ style [still traditional but with some twists],” says Owner/Executive Chef Isamu (Sam) Morikizono.
Osaka-born Morikizono has been a part of the Tajima family since 2001, when he took over the original location at 4681 Convoy Street. Back then, he described the clientele as “nearly all Japanese” and served solely traditional-style ramen. Since then, Morikizono has expanded into creating what he considers to be a more “international” approach to accommodate the increasingly diverse consumer base. Some of these changes include a generous selection of local craft beers as well as sake to pair with your meal and a gluten-free noodle option.
However, the ramen tends to be wholly Japanese, especially the original “Tajima” tonkotsu option, which features chives, kakuni (pork belly), a generous helping of fried garlic chips, green onion, soft boiled egg, bean sprouts, pork chashu, sesame seeds and Japanese seaweed that effortlessly melds together in glorious umami perfection.
Appetizers include simple pleasures such as edamame and gyoza (pan fried pork dumplings with ponzu dipping sauce), but we recommend either the takoyaki (octopus dumplings) or pork kakuni buns for a sticky-sweet and savory way to whet your appetite before ravenously diving into a bowl of ramen. When your bowl of soup does arrive, Morikizono recommends slurping it down quickly; if you take too much time to take that perfect Instagram photo, you run the risk of soggy noodles and lukewarm broth. It’ll still be tasty, but ramen of this caliber deserves to be enjoyed at its prime.
Tajima also offers rice bowls for those who turn their noses to the ramen trend. But why go to a ramen bar and skip the speciality? The kimchi fried rice is surely divine, but the focus on classic, high-quality simplicity in each bowl of noodles should not be missed.
Daily hours are currently 11:30am-10:30pm, but will hopefully extend to late-night in the near future. For those outside the Mid-City area, rumor has it that Tajima plans on opening at least one new ramen restaurant every year with North County on the near horizon.
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Japanese chain Tajima is bringing its signature ramen bowls to the North Park/Normal Heights area. Traditionalists come to slurp on the namesake Tajima pork belly tonkotsu bowl, but a meal here isn't complete without a starter of octopus and pan-fried pork dumplings. In response to an expanding clientele, the spot also serves vegan ramen and gluten-free noodles.