f your experience with Japanese food has thus far been sukiyaki, teriyaki andsushi, then Tajima will be an eye-opener. This Kearny Mesa eatery serves upreasonably priced modern Japanese fare-specifically, Japanese fare that wouldactually be served in Japan. If you're not an adventurous eater, then Tajima haslittle to offer. If, on the other hand, you're gastronomically curious, Tajima isa bona fide culinary adventure. Occupying the rear of the same strip mall thathouses Jamillah Garden, Tajima features a cozy, low-ceilinged dining room,sparsely decorated with Japanese pottery. The small dining room is densely packedwith tables, making for a lively atmosphere on busy nights. Tajima serves ramen,entrée plates of various katsu (panko-breaded and deep-fried protein like pork,chicken, or meat loaf), ochazuke and zousui (rice soups-the former with a greentea-based broth, the latter seafood-based); hot or cold soba and udon noodles(buckwheat or flour, respectively); and a dish called okonomiyaki, aJapanese-style pancake folded around a variety of fillings and topped with sauceand shaved fish. Tajima also offers an extensive appetizer list featuring itemslike sea eel tempura, seasoned deep-fried squid legs, wasabi marinated octopusand various forms of fried chicken. I'm not really doing the appetizer menujustice, since it lists easily more than 30 appetizers. Additionally, there is aphotocopied menu of special appetizers placed on every table with choices likedeep-fried scallop creamy croquettes, Japanese-style steak with ponzu sauce,grilled lobster in garlic-chili sauce and potato with tomato meat saucecasserole. Appetizers are popular here; I saw people at many tables sharing aselection of them tapas-style, washing them down with sake and beer. We doveright in and ordered the scallop croquettes, gobo roots salad, minchi katsu(meatloaf) and mixed okonomiyaki (meat and seafood)-it all wound up being a lotfor two to share, since the minchi katsu also came with salad and miso soup. Thecroquettes were quite tasty, with a perfect panko shell surrounding asurprisingly soft and creamy seafood center. It was almost like eating clamchowder in a fried crust. As good as this was, I found myself enjoying the goboroots salad even more. Gobo root is the name for edible burdock root, and here itwas sliced thin and dressed with green onions and a touch of mayonnaise,producing a result similar to chicken salad. Served atop ginger and brown-ricevinegar-dressed greens, this was a light and refreshing appetizer. The minchikatsu had a light and crisp panko crust and an onion and herb-seasoned fillingwith a flavor reminiscent of mild sausage. Quite rich, one of the two pieces wasample for sharing. The accompanying salad, miso soup and sides of shreddedcabbage and seaweed salad were all very fresh and tasty. The okonomiyaki wasenormous. It was also one of the most unusual looking dishes I've ever seen,looking like a brown omelet crisscrossed with burgundy okonomiyaki sauce,mayonnaise, with shaved bonito (a variety of dried fish) heaped on top, wavinggently in the rising heat. Filled with noodles, seafood and meat, this was adelicious and filling dish. Tajima is open for lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30p.m., and dinner between 5:30 and 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Saturday,it's open from noon until 10:30 p.m., Sundays from noon until 9:30 p.m. Tajimaalso offers a ramen-only menu from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.