The recently added Daikokuya on Sawtelle brings the restaurant family to a total of four ramen shops around LA. Personally, I frequent the location on 1st street in Little Tokyo. It’s convenient after hitting MOCA or even late night after an event at LA Live. When you mention Daikokuyu to people they usually ask, “The one with the line?” Yes. That one. Some people may feel like the line is proof positive of the ramen’s deliciousness, other people just get annoyed and blow it off. If I go during mealtime or on a weekend, I expect a 30-45 minute wait. I go sit in the bakery across the street and read or chat with my dining companion. Showing up late at night after a concert the wait is usually only 10 minutes. On a weeknight.
The four locations offer different menus and the chefs have different cooking styles, so this review only applies to Little Tokyo. The intimate restaurant has maybe 6 booths and a long counter. If there are less than three of you, you will always be seated at the counter. Sometimes that can be fun, because the partitions that separate you from the kitchen can slip and you get to watch them prepare the starters with a lot of fire. On the downside, you are facing this big blank partition, which is not only boring, but kind of claustrophobic. And right on the other side of the partition is lots of fire. So it can get hot.
Why do diners put up with the wait and the discomfort? Because the food is top-notch. For most people there is only one thing on the menu – Daikoku ramen. To make the tonkotsu soup base, pork bones simmer and reduce (cue spooky theramin) all night long. In an undisclosed location. A special soy sauce is added, and in go the noodles. The Daikoku ramen also holds kurobuta (black pork) char siu pork belly, a marinated egg with a lovely runny yolk, bean sprouts and green onions. The bowl is topped with a light sprinkling of sesame seeds and delivered steaming hot to your table.
Many people choose the Daikoku ramen combination which includes a crispy shredded lettuce salad with an addictive dressing and your choice of small rice bowls. It’s worth it. The chicken and egg bowl comes with a sort of chicken omelette, but their teriyaki is really where it’s at. The salmon roe bowl is also very popular. You can order a bento box if you prefer, with rice and your choice of a crispy pork cutlet that hovers near greasy, teriyaki, tempura, and various sushi. If you are sitting at the counter, be warned – it is bigger than the counter. Gyoza may be ordered on the side and are the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of ramen.
Prices average between $8 and $17. They serve beer, sake and plum wine. The service is friendly and surprisingly quick. There is no waiting once your ass hits that seat. But there is no pressure to leave. Relax and enjoy the fragrant steaming noodles.