Saturday, July 10, 2010


327 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 626-1680

Reviewed 1/3/2008

Nevermind the ramen for a moment. Even if the ramen sucked, there would be reasons to go here:

1. Cabbage salad
2. Gyoza--thick, crusty and fried brown on top
3. Constant line of patrons, mostly Asian--good sign for an Asian joint (likely you will be waiting too, but when you get seated, you'll feel smug and triumphant)
4. Japanese staff (very big for me that the staff be of the same ethnicity as the food it is serving)
5. "Keanu Reeves"
6. Godzilla perched up on the ledge on the doorway

The main reason to go to Daikokuya is of course the ramen, which is divine. The place offers only one kind of ramen, served up two ways: one in which the noodles come in the broth, the other in which the ramen and broth come in separate bowls. Daikokuya does have other menu options, like rice bowls and sushi sides, but it's all about its one version of ramen. (Don't ask me why hiyashi ramen is featured on their website. Maybe it's offered in the summer?)

I recommend ordering the broth and ramen in separate bowls if you, like me, must have your ramen al dente when eating, with scallions and bean sprouts unwilted. With this option, be willing to risk your broth turning a little lukewarm before the meal is over. No matter--you'll be too content to care.

The ramen I had was perfect in texture--tender but slightly chewy--and wonderfully fragrant. The creamy, sesame-colored broth is so damned good that it's easy to forget yourself and just slurp it up like a dog, head in bowl.

I don't eat pork, but had to try it since it came with the ramen and everything else was giving me food bliss (including the pork broth). It was incredibly flavorful, as adoring fans will agree.

When "Keanu Reeves" swaggered by (he was one of the multi-racial waiters who could alternate between perfectly accented Japanese and American English in one breath), my dinner companion placed an order for cabbage salad--finely shredded cabbage with Japanese-style Thousand Island dressing. Not knowing what it was initially, I demurred. But I ended up trying his and not letting him have any. This salad transforms a rubbery vegetable into a simple but amazing delicacy.

We came here on New Year's Eve, before it closed at 8PM. It was a satisfying way to begin ringing in the new year--fat-and-happy in the company of other fat-and-happy patrons. It didn't matter that we didn't know these people. There was an earthy, communal feel to the worn-in place. Glancing occasionally at the statue of Godzilla looming above the doorway, I was in ramen heaven.

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