Plant-Based Japanese Restaurant The Yasai To Open In San Diego's Little Italy Next Week

February 21, 2020

Last fall, the team behind San Diego's Rakiraki Ramen + Tsukemen announced their Pokirrito locations in Kearny Mesa and Little Italy would be rebranded to become The Yasai, an all-vegan Japanese izakaya concept. Next week, the plant-based eatery will unveil its second area location in San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood.

Chef and owner Junya Watanabe first opened the original Rakiraki Ramen & Tsukemen in the heart of Kearny Mesa's Convoy District in 2012, and the restaurant became an immediate hit due to its stylish design menu of authentic Japanese cuisine, including curry, tsukemen (dipping noodles), rice bowls, a variety of ramen soups, ramen burgers, specialty sushi rolls, and delicious fried chicken karaage. Watanabe took over the space adjacent to Rakiraki for the flagship location of his Pokirrito concept, which unveiled in Spring 2016, offering a counter service menu consisting mainly of poke bowls and giant sushi burritos. A second location of Rakiraki & Pokirrito opened in Little Italy in summer 2016 and a third outpost of RakiRaki launched at 3282 Mission Street in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood in 2017. Watanabe also operates a Rakiraki stand in Liberty Public Market and opened a hand roll-centric sushi concept called J/Wata Temaki Bar near his original RakiRaki space in late 2017.

Staying with the culinary trends, Watanabe rebranded his former Pokirrito sushi burrito and poke bowl eatery in Kearny Mesa last fall to become The Yasai, which means "vegetables" in Japanese. Pokirrito restaurants at 4646 Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa and 2252 India Street in Little Italy shuttered in late September 2019, with the Convoy location being first to reopen mid-November of last year. Last month, Watanabe unveiled an entirely new vegan izakaya menu from The Lab, his new playground for the freshest spring vegetables, where he and his team will ferment, pickle and marinate with flavor-rich Japanese ingredients. The new menu has been designed by Watanabe and sushi chef Eduardo Fierro, who previously worked at another plant-based Japanese eatery NoW Sushi in Mission Beach.

The Little Italy grand opening of The Yasai by Rakiraki is currently planned for February 28, but the eatery will soft open on February 25. Those that RSVP for the soft opening will receive a special buy-one-get-one entree.

For more information about The Yasai, visit and check out the menu below.