I seem to be cursed when it comes to Daikokuya. The first time I tried to go, the owner was on vacation, and they were closed. I ended up at Kouraku across the street. Then as I typed up this review and was *almost* finished, my browser decided to crash. So let me try this again…
I’ve been anticipating a visit to Daikokuya for a long time, after reading some rave reviews. As I stepped into the restaurant, I felt like I was transported back in time to a 50’s (or maybe 60’s?) Japanese diner. The restaurant has a great nostalgic atmosphere, from the red diner stools to the vintage signs and props that decorate the place. Since I arrived at an off-hour, the place was empty and the service was fast.
Daikokuya serves only one style of ramen: the Daikoku ramen, with kurobuta pork (“the pork for royalty”) and a tonkotsu soup lovingly cooked for nearly a day. The best value at Daikokuya is the ramen/rice bowl combo, which comes with your choice of 8 different rice bowls or fried rice. I chose to go with the tempura don, which was quite good…nothing spectacular, but good.
Now…the ramen…it arrived piping hot, and I was transfixed by the steam rising from the bowl. I started off with a bit of noodles. The noodles were just good, chewy and flavorful, and went well with green onions and bean sprouts. The egg was nice, having been “soaked in a special sauce all through the night before serving,” and the bamboo shoots…wow! The bamboo was really tasty, but I think I counted only 3 or 4 pieces. Next time I’ll have to ask for more.
I drank a spoonful of soup…hmm…it’s good, and I can taste the complex flavoring, but disappointingly, it was a bit on the bland side and slightly watery. I still finished all the soup. I just wished it had more flavor.
Finally, I took a bite of the famed kurobuta pork: Yum! The pork was rich in flavor, almost buttery, and it practically melted in my mouth. The *only* thing that kept me from enjoying the pork as much as everyone else was my visit to the raumen museum in Yokohama (sorry, the link is in Japanese. Here’s some more info in English) about 2 years ago, where I experienced ecstasy in a bowl and had the *absolute* best pork ever. Daikokuya’s pork, however, is a firm 2nd place and is worth the visit.
As I left Daikokuya, I looked up and kicked myself after seeing a sign advertising that you could ask for a stronger broth (an extra dollop of the pork flavoring).
So in the end, was it worth the wait? I think if you’re in L.A., definitely. If you live in (the) O.C., I’d recommend the shorter drive to Shin-Sen-Gumi. While Daikokuya’s pork is head and shoulders above Shinsengumi’s, I’d have to give a slight edge to Shinsengumi’s soup and noodles. Daikokuya gets a 7.5, but I’ll be back for that stronger soup!
Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice Bowl
327 E. 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 626-1680
2 thoughts on “ramen rating: daikokuya – los angeles, ca”
I don’t think that you’re the only one who had bad luck with daikoku ramen…I used to go there several times a month, but I think they changed chef? At any rate, the chahan used to be pretty good, until I went with a friend and got “oil-flavored” fried rice. Well, actually it was more like “burned-oil” flavored fried rice. Noodles were overcooked and soup was so-so. I went back once more and was greeted with even more greasy fried rice. When I commented to the waitress, she said, “That’s the normal taste all the time” (well actually said it in Japanese, but…). She went into the back…I joked with my friend as I smelled some burnt oil wafting into my nose tht I hoped they weren’t cooking the same thing for me. Sure enough…a few minutes later, she came back with the same inedible fried rice. I haven’t been back.
Shisengumi, on the other hand, is another story. I drive down from west la on a regular basis and have been for the past 6 years at least…probably more. Side dishes are up and down, but the atmosphere is more fun for hanging out with friends, especially since it’s not a “quiet neighborhood” type place for me. The ramen is always on par or above and if there’s any true inconsistancy, the staff is always more than willing to replace orders. It’s a shame that there are no good ramen places on the west side other than the moderately tasty ramenya, which although not fantastic, is definitely always satisfying and more than enough to fill you up twice over. Don’t even get me started on the crowded “chabuya”. *sigh* I think most newbies to ramen would be better off sticking with shincup ramen or even nissin cup ramen.
My experience with Daikokuya vs. Shin Sen Gumi was a little different. Having been to both places many times, I always felt that Daikokuya’s soup was richer in flavor (and SSG’s soup is occasionally too salty). If you get kotteri, it’s even better, but it’s not for the faint of heart: the soup looks like boba tea, its surface covered with floating droplets of lard.
SSG wins hands down with regard to the noodles, however (although I admit, I prefer the thinner Hakata-style noodles). Daikokuya is inconsistent – sometimes the noodles are well-cooked, other times they are overcooked. SSG’s noodles are consistently firm (and if you get kaedama, the second helping is even more firm).
I agree about the pork though. SSG’s does not compare to Daikokuya’s.
Neither place holds a candle to Kyusyu Jangara in Tokyo, however. 🙂
BTW, you also mentioned how mediocre you thought Tampopo was. I didn’t think the Gardena Tampopo was all that bad. Not great, but not terrible. I liked it better than Ramenya and Chabuya, at least.