Our group of friends was starving after visiting the first San Diego Night Market. Since we were already out and about in the Convoy District, we thought; why not eat out here? I remembered recently reading an article from Eater San Diego about a Ramen Burger from a restaurant called Rakiraki.
Adamant to try it out, I was able to convince the group to try out the Rakiraki experience. The fight of the ramen monster and my stomach began.
First of all, the parking lot in this place was crazy. It's a shopping mall of restaurants, all with lines out the door which was one of the very first things we noticed. Some people may be deterred to go there by the crowd, but why would people be here if it wasn't good, right? So we put our name on the list, and waited outside for about 30 minutes before we were sat.
With our stomachs growling, we waited on the side of the restaurant. The restaurant was well-lit, as if you're in an episode of Top Model. You could see from the outside that people inside were happily devouring every bite of their ramen burgers and slurping their ramen noodles. Each minute seemed like an hour. I couldn't wait to be the person inside devouring a ramen burger while slurping on some ramen.
We were sat at the seat on the left of the previous photo. Great bar top seats so we got an overview of what the people on the tables had ordered. They served us our water in nostalgic jars. I took sips and surreptitiously smiled from the small glee of sipping from a nostalgic jar.
Bam! On the front page of the menu. It was calling me out. TSUKUNE RAMEN BURGER. First of all, what does tsukune(つくね) mean? Tsukune means: kneaded by hand. According to an interview of Rakiraki's Chef and Owner, Junya Watanabe, by San Diego 6 ("Wake Up San Diego"), the ramen burger is already a popular hit in Japan, but he is using American ingredients to make it here.
After reading through the menu, my stomach growled even louder. The server came to our table and asked to take our orders. We were not ready yet, but the worst words were uttered at this encounter.
"We are already out of the ramen burger."
What?! The whole purpose of our visit was to try this magical burger made of ramen, but it was out. I was disappointed, but understood that it is a very popular item, and that we were there at 9pm which is pretty late for dinner. So we decided to order a round of cold dry sake to get over the sadness of missing out on tasting the ramen burger during this visit.
We asked the server to return in a couple minutes while we looked through the menu. @SD_Benjamin looked through some yelp reviews for recommendation on what else to order since they were out of the ramen burger. Okay, I'm going to stop mentioning that they were out of the ramen burger. He found on yelp to try the chicken karaage from Angelo F.'s visit. So we ordered the chicken Karaage to start. @Danofrnandez ordered the Original Tsukemen with the Dippin' Sauce, I ordered the Original Tonkotsu Ramen (Flame Blistered Prime X.O. Under Belly Chasiu), and @SD_Benjamin ordered the (ASK BENJAMIN).
The Karaage Chicken was good. The chicken was cooked well and it was crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside. The mayo/spicy mayo/ponzu sauce combination wakes up your taste buds as it mixes the saltiness of the chicken with the sourness of the ponzu sauce and the mayonnaise. So far so good.
@Danofrnandez describes his experience as a ramen flavor grenade. What does that mean exactly? I don't know, but it sounds delicious. I think he's trying to say that each slurp of ramen was a burst of flavor in his mouth.
I would describe my ramen as so good as well. I really liked the broth. I thought that it was nicely seasoned and balanced. It wasn't too salty or too creamy. The pork belly is good as well. It wasn't too hard or too soft. There wasn't much to compare it to other than ramen experiences when I used to live in LA or Little Italy's, Underbelly restaurant. I would say that Rakiraki's ramen was good. I really enjoyed it.
Benjamin ordered the "ramen" and from what I can tell it looked like he enjoyed it. He devoured it, just like how Daniel and I devoured our ramen. I still have to ask him what he ordered, because I forgot.
Obviously, a great experience encompasses not just great food. It's also the ambiance and the service. As you can see, the place is brightly lit, and I would describe the design to be modern-chic. Up on the ceiling is a modern take on Japanese lanterns. The place has a good vibe, and maybe dimming the lights would make it more intimate, however, I think it's perfect the way it's lit since ramen is not really an intimate meal. It's made to be slurped loudly which in a quiet and dark environment might make that awkward. I'm not a big fan of the open-kitchen concept, but I can barely hear the kitchen which was great. The outside waiting area's corrugated roofing panels really made me laugh, because that's pretty much how walls are in different parts of Asia.
I'm not going to close with a statement about being upset that they were out of the ramen burger, which was the original reason for our visit. But, I will end with this. After a night out with friends to Convoy District's First Night Market, we were hungry as lions for the food vendors at this 15,000-attendance event is reminiscent of Black Fridays. We found our refuge at Rakiraki Ramen & Tsukemen and our hunger was defeated by the ramen monster. Maybe my stomach and Rakiraki will have a battle again soon and hopefully their choice of weapon next time will be the ramen burger.
Great Company + Great Food + Happy Bellies = Rakiraki. See you soon.