Daikokuya is a quaint restaurant serving big flavors in their signature ramen.
Daikokuya is in the heart of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, with a bakery shop serving handmade mochi and another ramen shop right next door. Little Tokyo in Los Angeles is filled with Japanese restaurants, bakeries, and independently owned antique and clothes stores along the streets of a localized shopping plaza with paper lantern decorations and wooden structures reminiscent of Japan. The restaurant is also located next door to the Japanese American National Museum. My party of 5 went to Daikokuya on a Saturday at 4:00 PM to avoid the dinner crowd, and the restaurant was already packed with only one table open which we were able to grab. Indoor seating is limited to one line of tables on the left side of the restaurant and the sushi bar on the right side. Because of the limited seating and regular crowd, Daikokuya along with most restaurants in Little Tokyo are adamant that you have your full party present before they can seat you – no exceptions so plan accordingly.
Once seated, we looked through the expansive menu of ramen, rice bowls, sushi, and appetizers. Daikokuya is known for their ramen, so we ordered their Daikoku Ramen which is a tonkotsu soup base served with homemade pork belly chashu, marinated boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, green onions, and topped with sesame seeds. On the menu, they have recommended toppings such as kotteri flavoring, a broth made with extracted back fat, nori (dried seaweed), or extra chashu pork. We ordered one original Daikoku Ramen and a Dakoku Ramen with the added kotteri flavoring. The kotteri flavor added a richness. And the backfat added a thickness which coated the noodles nicely. If you like your ramen creamy or salty, I suggest adding the kotteri flavor, but the original was also packed with flavor with a thinner consistency to the soup broth. I personally love my ramen noodles a little chewy, and these noodles were perfect when combined with the tender pork belly, boiled egg, and crispy bean sprouts. The bouncy texture of the ramen noodles contrasted with the richness of the meat and broth so each bite offered something new. Some ramen places add corn to their broth to make it sweeter, but my personal preference is the rich creamy broth which is found in every spoonful of the Daikoku ramen.
We ordered the Daikoku ramen as part of a combination with a small pork cutlet bowl served with a raw, cabbage salad with a sweet, creamy dressing. I love pork cutlet bowls, and this one was so good! The pork cutlet bowl comes with a pork cutlet, eggs, sweet onions served on top of a bowl of white rice. While some places have crispy, breaded pork cutlets (often served with curry), the pork cutlet bowl at Daikokuya is cooked in a unique style. The cutlet is breaded with eggs cooked into the breading to make it softer and packed with flavor. The onions and eggs are sweet with a bit of soy sauce and pairs perfectly with the rice.
In addition, we ordered a Teriyaki Eel bowl, which was teriyaki eel served over white rice. The eel was soft, smooth, and melted in my mouth with a rich sauce balanced by the white rice. I will eat eel in sushi, rolls, or in bowl form. If you’re craving just the eel and rice without any of the extra ingredients you would find in the rolls, this is perfect for you.
Finally, we ordered the homemade gyoza. It comes with 5-pieces, filled with pork and vegetables inside, topped generously with green onions, and served with a cute small pitcher of dipping sauce. The shape of gyoza changes from restaurant to restaurant, and I appreciated the long, rectangular shape of these pan-fried gyoza typical of traditional Japanese restaurants. The gyoza had a crisp edge and a soft, doughy interior for a great mix of textures.
The ramen, rice bowls, and appetizers at Daikokuya were amazing and served almost instantaneously to our table. As a small restaurant in the middle of busy Little Tokyo, this restaurant is packed at peak dining times. This area is always busy, making parking difficult and lines long, but the food here is worth the effort of getting there.
Daikokuya is the perfect place to eat with family and friends before walking through Little Tokyo, picking up goodies from their many bakeries, and spending time perusing their antiques and clothes stores.