All words: Ko Im
All photos: Stephanie Breijo
Noodle-lovers in the district have another place to eat their hearts out: at the long-awaited Daikaya, which opened Valentine’s Day.
The Sapporo-style restaurant sits next to Graffiato by the Verizon Center with simple design, imported ingredients and streamlined, delicate taste.
So far, there are four types of ramen on the menu: shio (salt), shoyu (soy), mugi miso and vegetable, ranging from $11.50 to $12.75. Be adventurous and don’t spend the extra dollars on the gyoza side (though they are delicious) – instead, add one of the soy-marinated, poached eggs or some extra bamboo shoots. Pair it with a Sapporo beer, or Calpico if you want to try Japanese soda.
I overheard co-owner Daisuke Utagawa say they had to perfect the shio dish, because it is the type of ramen in which flaws can be easily exposed. Well, the broth was clean and not too salty, the bowl was piping hot (a personal pet peeve if not) and the noodles curled into your mouth. With the open kitchen, see executive chef Katsuya Fukushima in action. You may have to wait because they don’t take reservations, but inside, it’s not too crowded or too loud because everyone’s too busy enjoying their meal.
As Utagawa-san put it – ramen is noodle first, soup second. Asians will consume all the carbs right away, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you slurped your bowl clean. That would actually be good table manners back on the cuisine’s motherland.
Inevitably, the comparison between this meal to the other ramen joints popping up in the district bubbles to the surface. In general terms, Toki Underground has more kick, Sakuramen hits the spot (with their pork buns), Izakaya Seki has bomb cold soba and Taan DC is arguably the most modern overall. But while all fair’s in love and war, Daikaya finds its place in delicate flavor profiles and Japanese-imported noodles that fly straight from an exclusive chef to the restaurant. When all’s said and done, the foodie can find comfort knowing they have many choices all around the nation’s capital.
The lunch menu at Daikaya will start mid-March. We can’t wait to “canoodle” (sorry, couldn’t help myself!) at the izakaya portion, which will also open soon.