Daikokuya, A Ramen Noodle House in L.A.
One of the places I really wanted to visit when were in Los Angeles was..
The Chinese Theater? With the stars names in the sidewalk? NOPE.
The Hollywood sign? NOPE.
All of those things are things you see all the time from visitors in L.A., but Mr. Wonderful and I didn’t feel like fighting the cursed traffic for an hour for something so…
We don’t tend to be the typical “touristy” kind of folk, taking tours, walking up to sights, gazing for a moment and then moving on to rush to the new “buzz” thing to do. And besides, have you ever been involved in any way with L.A. traffic? Whatever you do better be worthwhile to endure it.
We love to immerse ourselves in the culture of the place.
We like to stroll on the beaches, and browse through the streets of the real City, often times eating at the small local places that might not have the most buzzed about chef, but will have some fabulous food that you can’t find anywhere else.
Such was the case when we visited Little Tokyo.
Little Tokyo is one of three official Japantowns in the United States, consists of about five square blocks, give or take, and houses a string of ethnic eateries, anime shops and other retail outlets in its boundaries.
I had heard about a local ramen noodle house called Daikokuya. Rumors were that folks lined up down the sidewalk for a taste of this noodle soup and we wanted to be one of them.
Here’s how it works.
You approach the hanging curtains covering the doorway.
People eye you. They’ve been waiting already for who knows how long. You sidle past them and duck inside where you find a lone clipboard.
Alongside the clipboard, you read the no-no’s, like there is no take-out at Daikokuya in Little Tokyo amongst other things.
If you’re like me you’re amazed at how small the place is inside. There is one row of booths.
And a bar with several stools.
To your immediate right hanging on the lone wooden wall is the clipboard – unmanned and just hanging there. It’s up to you to put your name and the number of your party down at the bottom of the list. This is your only golden ticket into Daikokuya. Its not really fair that I’m telling you this, because to truly experience the place, you should have to stand around waiting in line, and then watch several educated diners duck through the flaps before you sheepishly ask someone what they’re doing.
After we jotted down our name and returned to the street to wait, it took about 20-30 minutes before someone hollered through the curtained flaps, “Johnstonbaugh, TWO!” and we hustled inside to find our seats at the bar on two stools. You don’t really get to pick and choose where you sit. You just do what they say and be thankful you got in.
We plopped down on our stools amongst the loud din of diners and steam coming off the enormous pots of velvetty broth boiling behind the counter and picked up the menu.
We had been walking quite a bit that day, and after our street wait outside, we were fairly starving so we ordered an appetizer, namely the Pan Fried Gyoza (potstickers).
I haven’t seen potstickers in this manner before, for they arrived before us looking like little burritos, flat and crispy- brown and covered in a thinly sliced green onions.
These were wonderful. Mr. Wonderful commented that they might be perhaps the best gyoza we’d had, and they were filled with savory pork and vegetables.
Next up and accompying each combination dinner was a bowl of sort of Asian slaw. Simple shredded cabbage had a good sized spoonful of something akin to an Asian Thousand Island dressing..it was wonderfully fresh and tasty.
Instead of just ordering the ramen alone, I highly recommend that you order one of the combination options off the menu. That way, you can sample some other of their delicious offerings and had we not, I never would have had this…the shredded pork bowl.
This dish might have been my favorite thing to eat and I still crave it as I pen these words. Nestled in the bottom of the bowl is hot rice that is topped with Kurobuta pork, much the same of our beloved Berkshire pork from the prized black pigs of notable quality.
They have grilled the Kurobuta, then topped it with a sweet teriyaki-type glaze, more green onions slivers, and a side of coral colored pickled ginger and thin strips of nori. I can’t begin to tell you how I loved this fusion of flavors, and I kept coming back to it time and time again, even over the soup.
The Wonderful guy ordered his combo with ramen and fried rice.
The fragrant fried rice arrived and you could almost breathe in the flavors in the aroma. It has more of the pork, egg, green onion and corn, and we both picked at it in delight while we waited for the star soup to arrive.
The soup in question is ramen.
First off, toss out any notions you have of those horrible packages you buy 10/$1.00 at the store. This is authentic ramen in tonkotsu broth whose origin lies in Japan’s southern Kyushu region. The broth is made overnight and rumored to simmer for 20 hours long, even after the doors close.
The protein involved in the silky wonderous broth is Kurobuta pork bones, and while they bathe for many hours overnight, the broth becomes milky and rich and wonderful while the pork simply melts in your mouth.
Once the broth is brought to the restaurant each day, a secret soy sauce is added for savoriness. The noodles are curly and chewy and wonderful, and there is also a marinated hardboiled egg (with a not quite hard yolk), bamboo shoots and bean sprouts. To make it even better, spoon in a little garlic from a container on the counter in front of you and stir it into your soup.
You will see this soup arriving at booths and barstools alike amidst sounds of slurping noodles and sighs of joy.
I can’t remember the last time I saw my husband this blissful at a restaurant, from high dollar steakhouses to hole in the wall places, the man was happy here.
And so was I. We left fairly stuffed but not uncomfortably so, and, I’m sure we had a little broth splattered down the fronts or our shirts as well. It’s the sign of the best comfort food, you know, and not to be ashamed of in any manner.
At Daikokuya a few splatters mean you slurped well, lived well, and indulged in the goodness that is ramen.
If you are ever in L.A. make the drive to Little Tokyo. Try out the fare at Daikokuya. Someday I will go back. And when I do, I’ll go more more than once during that trip.
Maybe just to see him wait outside.
Here’s a map to help you find the place!