Sunday, May 31, 2009

Top Ramen: Daikokuya

There are a number of established, vaunted LA institutions to which I have shamefully never been. I've never had Welsh rarebit and a tableside Caesar salad at Musso & Frank's Grill, I've never had a reuben and Brent's Deli and I've never had a bowl of chili at Chili My Soul. Until recently, I had never sat down to a bowl of ramen at Daikokuya, the Little Tokyo ramen temple with additional locations in Costa Mesa and Monterey Park. I am happy to say I have now remedied that sad situation.

The Daikokuya ramen bowl is truly a thing of beauty. As I slurped, I debated whether the rich, murky brown, intensely porky broth even qualified as a soup as opposed to a gravy or jus. The broth dominates the dish, as it should, making the nicely chewy noodles almost an afterthought. One of the unexpected delights of the ramen is a hard boiled egg, so saturated with broth that it tastes almost like a pork product. As I ate the porky egg, I thought of a Dr. Seuss-like egg laying pig.

The Daikokuya ramen pairs well with a side of salmon roe on rice (available together as a combination) and an order of gyoza. Being a porketarian, I ordered the pork cutlet with my ramen. The cutlet was probably the meal's only weakness. It was very eggy. The sauce was a bit too sweet, and it made the crispy, fried coating soggy.

My favorite ramen in LA is at Santoka Ramen at the Mitsuwa Market in West LA, so that is what I naturally compared Daikokuya to, though I did not do a side by side comparison. The broth at Santoka is also wonderful, but a bit more greasy than Daikokuya's. The actual pork slices in the ramen are better at Santoka. At Daikokuya, they were flimsy and seemed to be more of a flavoring agent than an actual element of the meal. It would definitely be a close call between these two great ramens; we will have to set a date for a ramen-off.

I always feel like something sweet after eating a lot of pork, and after poking around at the Little Tokyo Mall, across the street from Daikokuya, we found a little, generic-looking ice cream parlor that serves Fossleman's ice cream. A scoop of Fossleman's taro ice cream was a perfect end to the meal.

327 E. First Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 626-1680

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