Finally, there is a spot in San Diego that serves some really good jajangmyeon (black bean sauce noodle). Located in the Zion market food court, Noodle J-I has been extremely popular since opening a few weeks ago.
They are most famous for their jajangmyeon and jjampong (spicy seafood noodle soup). Most of the versions of jajangmyeon I’ve had in San Diego have been watery disappointments. Not only is Noodle J-I’s version flavorful and concentrated, but they use fresh made noodles (you can sort of see the enormous mixer in the back of the restaurant making the noodles), and the price isn’t bad either at $5.99 for a large bowl. The only downside? The wait.
Since its opening, there is a constant line on weekends. It doesn’t matter if you go early or late. They open at 11am. A little before 3pm, they cut off the ordering line. And they take a break between 3pm and 5pm (even though there sign says they are open 11 to 8). They then reopen for dinner where another line goes until close. They are quite slow at taking orders, which I think is done deliberately because of the sheer volume of orders they are getting. We came by a few times after it opened but were always unwilling to wait in line. Finally, we bit the bullet and got in line one Sunday.
It took about 20 minutes of waiting before it was our turn to order. Once we ordered, we were told the wait would be another 30 minutes for the food. So we took our number (which is then displayed electronically when your food is ready) and went to do some grocery shopping.
But I have to say, it was worth the wait. One bite in and I was scarfing down the noodles as fast as I could. It was not a pretty sight.
The sauce was thick, concentrated, and tasted of black soybean paste. The cucumbers did not overwhelm the dish. The noodles had a slight bounce and chew, evident of freshly made noodles. At $5.99 for a large bowl, this was one of the cheapest bowls of jajangmyeon I’ve ever had. There is a Chinese version of this dish, but it’s a sweeter variation with a lot more ingredients and I actually prefer the Korean version.
I did have a good amount of sauce left and wished they followed the Japanese ramen restaurant practice of allowing customers to add extra noodles.
We also ordered the jjampong. The noodles were softer since they sat in the soup. I definitely prefer the jajangmyeon to fully appreciate the noodles. It was a plentiful soup. I confess, jjampong has never quite been my cup of tea so this wasn’t as special of a dish for me.
I hope the wait dies down, but we’ll definitely be back. The wait isn’t as bad if you schedule in some grocery shopping during the wait. They have a take-out option, but they actually charge $.50 extra and I didn’t actually see anyone go that route when we were there.