Normally, I never drink all of my soup in noodle bowls. Pho, udon, jiang jiang mien, naengmyun, ramen, all of them. As I was growing up, my Mom used to tell me that I would die of a stroke or be riddled with premature baldness if I drank every little drop. To this day, I think, I am a bit traumatized by her words. Plus, I don’t like the feeling liquid swishing around my stomach (except beer, because beer exits your system like a ninja).
But this. This is something special.
You may recall that Yakyudori in the Hillcrest neighborhood in San Diego is our favorite(est) yakitori place in the whole universe. In fact, it is one of my earliest restaurant posts. The chicken there is fresh and supple, with very little need for seasoning except for some sea salt… Grilled to perfection over binchotan coals (which is the Louis Vuitton of coals, so I hear) by master grill ninja Nabe-chan.
So imagine how much our family lamented when Nabe-chan stopped grilling chicken skewers to go set up the second restaurant in San Diego.
Well, that one opened a few months ago. Instead of being a master grilling ninja, Nabe-chan is now a master ramen ninja. They’re planning to do yakitori here too, once they get the fire department’s approval and whatnot, but that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for the noodle soup, the very thing that made Nabe-chan ditch the grill.
At Yakyudori 2, there are six types of noodle soups (well, 7 if you count the daily special, the 30-bowls-a-day-tonkotsu), on top of some side dishes and an impressive sake list. And, as with our usual ritual when we dine at Japanese establishments, we start with beer.
The draft beer at Yakyudori 2 is Sapporo – you can get a normal sized glass like myself, or fish out 8 bones for the extra large (33 ounces!!!) like Don. The glass was, seriously, bigger than my husband’s head.
With light Japanese beers at hand, the obvious appetizer would be karaage (4), which is made with the same juicy chicken that they use at the original Yakyudori. They cut it into small bite size morsels for you, which is dangerous because then you can’t stop popping these into your mouth.
The next obvious appetizer choice would be the gyoza (4). It may seem a little steep for 6 small bites (but nowhere as small as Shinsengumi’s gyoza, I assure you)… But come on, it’s handmade. And it’s juicy. And it goes well with beer. I’m sold.
Then the ramen arrived. I had the shoyu ramen (6.5), which is the tastiest, yet cleanest bowl of ramen you will ever get. The soft boiled egg is marinated in some sweet soy sauce, which provides a nice contrast with the savory, savory broth. Surprisingly, and against my mothers’ warnings, I ate it all, down to the last drop. Towards the bottom of the bowl, I caught chunks of roasted garlic and some peppers. So. Frickin. Good.
Don had the Nagoya Style Spicy Ramen (7.5). It comes topped with ground beef, instead of the luscious pork belly slices that my bowl came with.
“Nagoya style” generally means “flavor assault on your tongue” (as opposed to Kyoto style, which generally means bland-as-eff). That said, you have to have a certain amount of alcohol in your system to fully enjoy this bowl. First off, it’s pretty salty. AND acidic (!?). And spicy. All at the same time. Sounds like the perfect description for bar food chicken wings, right? Well there you go.
The dessert special was warabi mochi (4.5), which is a rare treat. It’s not made of rice flour, like real mochi. Instead, warabi mochi is made of warabi (baby bracken fern) flour. It’s more jelly like in consistency than real mochi, and most importantly, very cooling.
Yakyudori 2 serves it 3 ways, with matcha, kinako (soy bean flour), and sugar. The matcha is high quality and is very sweet on its own, and the kinako has a nice nutty flavor to it. And the sugar one, well, that one’s more like a baseline sample for you to enjoy the subtle flavor and jigglyness of the warabi mochi.
We want to come back again. Next time, we’ll try the special of the day tonkotsu ramen. And hopefully some grilled chicken skewers!
4898 Convoy St (next to Starbucks)
San Diego, CA 92111