Sunday, January 15, 2006
Little Tokyo Rose - Daikokuya
327 E. First St.
Los Angeles CA
Open til 2:30 am
MC VISA AMEX
Google Local Info
We haven't been to Little Tokyo yet, have we?
You know you're living in one of the Great Cities in the World when you can go to your nearest Metro station, hop off the train at the Civic Center station, look at the Frank Gehry-designed landmark concert hall 2 blocks up the hill, check your tickets for the starting time of the world-class orchestra concert that night, decide you have time for a bite, and walk a couple of blocks into an enticing array of some of the best down-home Japanese cuisine this side of Okinawa.
If you have a good nose for grilling food, an eye for a crowded room, and/or have read this article, you'll probably duck into Daikokuya.
Here's the dish.
Along the East side of First Street, just below Main (1st and Main is, by the way, where all street number address radiate outward from in L.A.'s grid), there is a line of small, authentic Japanese eateries. Noodles, sukiyaki, sushi, each has their specialty, and all the ones I've tried are good. But my current fave is Daikokuya.
You enter the Japanese-typical fabric shrouded doorway, and at first it just looks like another hole in the wall noodlery: red naugahyde booths along one wall, a small open kitchen bar, and a single window table. A single chair sits in front of the doorway with the waiting list. You sign in. Maybe you wait a bit. Now you look at the decor. It's all vintage, post WW II collectible art: beer posters, airline adverts, little toys still in their boxes. The waitress all wear distinctive blue do-rags. The whole place strives to re-create the feel of a 1947 Tokyo restaurant.
That's just cool.
And the food is terrific. The way to order here, assuming you're hungry, is to select one of the "combinations," as pictured above. For about ten bucks, you get a giant bowl of their house Daikokuya Ramen, and your choice of various rice bowls with protein-of-your-choice toppings. You'll be brought a cabbage salad (not pictured), the cabbage shredded more finely than usual, the dressing light and tangy. A perfect amuse-bouche.
The house soup is their pride and joy. Made from pork bone and soy sauce that boils for an entire day before serving, the stew features bamboo shoots, scallion, a specially marinated whole egg, and tender, thin slices of pork on a base of perfectly toothsome ramen. It's a rich, creamy stew, perfect for insulating you against the chilly walk back up the hill to Disney Concert hall... a real comfort food dish. You'll want to taste it "as is" before you begin altering the flavors with the chili powder or crushed garlic from the condiment tray on your table. This is the best ramen I've ever had.
The accompanying rice bowl is your choice of pork, beef, tempura shrimp, tuna sashimi, teriyaki chicken or teriyaki eel over rice. I haven't worked past the shredded pork, which is grilled to perfection, slightly crispy and caramelized on the outside, tender on the inside, mixed with scallions and pickled vegetable. But man, I think I'll try that eel teriyaki next time.
You can also just get the ramen soup by itself, for $7.50. Wash it back with green tea (to keep you awake during the adagios at the Disney Hall) or a $2.00 draft Kirin (if you plan to sleep through 'em), and you can't imagine a more satisfying meal.
And if you've seen Memoirs of a Geisha and have, like me, fantasies of hot Asian chicks in down and dirty postwar garb, you'll have a satisfying dessert here, too.