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!