One of the things I had to try in LA was ramen. Edmonton only has one (?) ramen place! Since this was originally a Vancouver trip, turned Los Angeles trip, it was a must. Where to get it? Little Tokyo, of course!
If the best Korean BBQ was a debate amongst LA locals, the best ramen in town was an even bigger debacle. Some favorites were: Daikokuya, Orochon, Santouka, Mottanai, Ramen Jinya, and Ton-Chan Ramen… just to name a few. Listed the highest on Urbanspoon was Daikokuya and Orochon. When in doubt, go with that!
Only within two blocks of each other, Joe and I could have gone to either one. We were starving though, and ended up at Daikokuya first. Arriving a little after 1 in the afternoon, there was still a waitlist. I couldn’t even imagine what the lunch hour was like. It took only 10-15 minutes to get seated though as the space seemed to have a high turnover. Every table had a big bowl of ramen, even though there are other items on the menu.
When I saw the menu, I was quite surprised: there was only one ramen item. The Daikokuya ramen is the one and only dish, no extra toppings to add, no different types of soup bases. You could combine it with a small bowl of rice and your choice of protein, but that was it! Seeing that it’s ranked #1 on Urbanspoon, I trust this as all they need. We placed our orders, hollered back in Japanese from our server to the staff in the open kitchen with such enthusiasm, you’d think they were warming up for a football game.
Joe ordered a combination of Daikokuya ramen and a chicken egg bowl. The chicken egg bowl literally was chicken, egg, and rice in a bowl. The sauce was interesting, mayo-based, and blended on top of a soft scrambled egg. The chicken was tender although the whole dish was lacking in seasoning. The rice below was very moist and with the soft scrambled egg, it reminded me of a very, very thick congee. Not my type of food, but hey!
The combo also came with a side salad: thinly shredded cabbage with a sweet, mayo sauce. The dressing was delicious! I need to learn how to make something similar! Added to the chicken egg bowl, it helped contrast the somewhat mushy texture.
Our bowls of ramen came simultaneously with the other dishes. There were 4 – 5 pieces of Kurobata pork belly (think black pig raised in Japan, similar to Kobe beef) and a marinated boiled egg, topped off with bean sprouts, green onions, sesame seeds, and bamboo shoots. The noodles were well cooked but looked like any other store-bought noodle. Not even sure if they make them fresh! The broth, however, was nicely flavored and the perfect amount of richness. You can request extra oil if you choose a richer broth. It wasn’t quite as salty as a full shoyu (soy sauce based) broth, but not as flavorful as a tonkotsu (pork bone based) broth. I believe this is some sort of mixture of the two, even though the menu states it’s a tonkotsu ramen. I’m aware that different ramens exist in different regions of Japan, so perhaps this is what it’s suppose taste like for this certain style. Who knows. I’ll need to do more research. I still preferred the broth of Santouka, a chain in Japan with locations in LA and Vancouver, with ramen based on the Hokkaido region of Japan.
Was it the best ramen of my life? No. I preferred Santouka and Katanaya (San Francisco) to Daikokuya. Was it good? Most definitely. The toppings were generous: the pork was tender, very flavorful, and the egg well marinated, although fully cooked. (You must know my must-have-half-cooked-egg-in-my-ramen story by now.) If I’m ever in the area again, I’ll definitely have to try Orochon to compare. They have more ramen broths to choose from and might be more to my liking.Daikokuya
327 E 1St
Los Angeles, CA