Time for today’s rhetorical question: Who doesn’t love ramen?
Obviously not this girl. The only downside about eating ramen [for me] is my inability to finish an entire bowl. (Damn you, tiny stomach!)
Los Angeles is more or less over-saturated with ramen shops. However, the restaurant that tops the list for me is the Daikokuya branch in Little Tokyo, just east of Downtown Los Angeles. Ever since I first tried a bowl of the extra-fatty broth in April 2009, I have worshiped at its steps. To me, Daikokuya Little Tokyo is the textbook definition of tonkotsu/pork-bone broth ramen. And where the broth is excellent–so goes my allegiance.
Little Tokyo is a bit of a drive from where I live, however, and the constant line in front of its Daikokuya location makes for a very impatient disciple. So for the sake of my own sanity, I usually forego this delectable, artery-clogging treat and reserve it for when visitors arrive.
Then one fateful day…
at a shopping center a mile away from our apartment…
a sign appeared in the window of a ramen shop that had recently closed.
‘Coming soon: DAIKOKUYA’
Joy, thy name is Kris! When the Daikokuya on Sawtelle had their soft opening toward the end of July, James and I joyfully (Krisfully? Just kidding, I really need better jokes) made our way to the entrance and strapped ourselves in for a fantastic ride.
So, you ask: how did they do?
Since that first visit, we have been back one other time a few weeks later and my consensus for now is… it’s good, but not great. Since the location is still less than a month old, they do not have the full menu available at the Little Tokyo location yet. The staples of the restaurant are still there, including their flagship item on the menu (ramen) as well as the gyoza, pork belly bowl and fried rice. But they do not currently have an option for ordering the broth kotteri (extra fatty), nor do they have tsukemen or hiyashi chuka. I’m sure that the menu will eventually expand as the store gets its feet wet. Sadly, the main star of the show and the #1 reason I love Daikokuya so much… yes, I’m talking about the broth… it’s missing something. It doesn’t have bite, nor the thick richness that makes the taste so luxurious on the tongue. If anything, the broth at this location tastes faintly of butter. I can’t lie–I was disappointed.
However, due to the proximity of its location and the much shorter wait times (for now), I will happily return to give it a chance in the future. A not-quite-as-good Daikokuya is still better than the rest of the ramen in the area–well, not counting the tsukemen at Tsujita LA, of course. I still think it warrants a try if you haven’t been yet, especially for the creative interior of the restaurant space. They’ve taken the indoor space and renovated it to look and feel like a street corner in Japan, complete with fake signs, a ‘ramen stand’ facade where the kitchen is visible, and a police box where the cash register resides. A mannequin in a police uniform greets you as you first walk into the restaurant–need I say more?
The Bottom Line: a well-known fantastic restaurant offshoot working out its kinks. Still worth a try, especially if you live in West LA like me!Daikokuya – Sawtelle branch 2208 Sawtelle Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90064