Joanna's San Diego Ramen Tour

By: Joanna Zhang

I'm not going to lie, I was devastated when I realized I was moving away from Manhattan's ~ramen scene~. As someone who lives and breathes ramen, I thought I was never going to find another place that satisfies my ramen addictions like Ippudo or Totto. But thankfully, there are some really delicious ramen restaurants in San Diego, and today, I'm going to tell you all about the ones that top my list and ones that didn't quite live up to the hype for me.

My absolute favorite place is Menya Ultra. Located in Convoy (the place to go for delicious Asian food), it's a tiny little spot next to a Daiso store. The first time I went, I had to wait for almost an hour, which apparently isn't even that long considering how popular the place is. The wait was definitely worth it, though. The quality of their ramen is arguably comparable to some of the best places in Manhattan. The broth was super rich, creamy, and perfectly spiced. The noodles were cooked to the perfect level of chewiness. The chashu was very tender and almost melted in my mouth, and to top it off, the egg was marinated perfectly. I highly recommend their Tonkotsu Ramen and their Spicy Miso Ramen. I've also tried the Tantan Men before, and while it was rich and flavorful, I think I'm just not that into tantanmen in general, but if you are, definitely try it. I also don't recomment getting the broth at a lower salt level as I think the original broth is at a good level, and any less salt might make it taste bland.

Next up is Rakiraki Ramen, which is also up their on my list with Menya Ultra. While Menya Ultra's broths are more heavy on the pork flavor, I think Rakiraki places slightly more emphasis on the umami flavors from seaweed. Also unlike Menya Ultra, Rakiraki uses leaner pieces of meat for their chashu. My favorite is the Red Edition Ramen, which is just their hakata tonkotsu broth with a lot of spiciness (and they're really not messing around with the spice!). Of course, their Standard Hakata Tonkotsu is quite delicious on its own, as well as their Signature Chicken Ramen and their Rikimaru Spicy Miso Tonkotsu if you want a heavier miso flavor. I've also tried their Tsukemen (dipping ramen), and didn't find it too different from the broth ramen. I guess it really depends on if you're feeling a lot of soup or not.

Rounding up my top three is Nishiki Ramen. It was the first ramen I've ever tried in San Diego and it definitely reassured me that I will not be deprived of ramen-y goodness for the next five years. I ordered their Akuma Ramen which is miso ramen with their demon spice (as you can probably tell by now I really like my ramen super spicy) and it was amazing! The broth was very flavorful and the spice destroyed me a little. Their pork was also very fatty and tender and the noodles were of course cooked very well. I also highly recommend getting an egg with your ramen. I will have to say that the broth was a little too salty but honestly I didn't really care. Surprisingly I haven't gone back for another bowl partly because I don't have a car and partly because I feel like they markup their ramen prices on Uber Eats. But next time, I will be trying their Smoke Bomb Black for that roasted black garlic sauce. 

Unfortunately, there are also a couple of places that were well-hyped online but I didn't find was that good. The first is Tajima Ramen. I stumbled into the Tajima at Gaslamp after a wild night at Omnia, so if anything, a regular bowl of ramen should have tasted extra delicious. Sadly, the Tonkotsu Ramen that I ordered was quite mediocre. The broth tasted a little watered down and I felt like their noodles were overcooked. The chashu, however, almost melted in my mouth and was quite good. I do feel like maybe I got the wrong ramen, because I tried my friend's chicken ramen and it was definitely better (I could actually taste the chicken in the broth). There's also the possibility that the location in Gaslamp isn't as good, so trying their store in Convoy isn't out of the question yet.

The other ramen spot that really disappointed me was Ramen Ryoma. I was so excited to try their ramen with all the different types of broths and their famously spicy meat, but in the end, it kind of just tasted like salty water to me? Maybe my taste buds aren't that refined but I truly could not pick out any flavor aside from salt. Their Miso broth is slightly stronger than their Shio and Shoyu broths but still not comparable to miso ramen that I've tried before. Not to mention their broth is quite salty and their famously spicy meat isn't that spicy. I will say, though, that their noodles and eggs, and chashu are cooked very well. But since so much of ramen is dependent on the broth, I was pretty disappointed.

One place that I've been wanting to go but wasn't able to due to COVID is Underbelly Ramen. All their ramen sound so intense and I love it. Belly of the Beast Ramen? Please sign me up. Maybe I'll get a chance to review it in 2021.

Do you love ramen as much as I do? I'm always looking for ramen buddies to try out new places with. Also I'm just going to shamelessly plug my noodles instagram here, follow me @alwaysnoodlin :)

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