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Daikaya Ramen, Chef Katsuya Fukushima and Owner Daisuke Utagawa in Chinatown

Chinatown Japanese Ramen

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#1 hmmboy

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 07:10 PM

Have not yet seen anything reported here on an exciting new restaurant from Chef Daisuke Itagawa of Sushi Ko and restaurateur Yama Jewayni (Marvin, Local 16, etc.). The project just got a whole lot more interesting with the announcement that Chef Katsuya Fukushima of Minibar fame will head the kitchen. The space is being built in the empty lot next door to Graffiato and reportedly will be offering ramen on the ground level and izakaya on the second floor. Sounds awesome - anticipated opening early 2012.

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#2 Koozebanian Fazoob

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 05:19 PM

http://www.washingto...eally-feasible/

Latest news on the place is not good, they haven't even started construction yet. Early Summer sounds like a pipe dream to me based on my knowledge of how construction goes.

#3 Koozebanian Fazoob

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 06:54 PM

I hate to only post bad news, but apparently they got a "Stop Work Order" last week.
http://pqinsider.blo...or-daikaya.html

I can't find any more info on what happened, seems like really bad news for Ramen fans though. :/

#4 lion

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 07:51 PM

That's a shame. Was looking forward more ramen places.

#5 DonRocks

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 09:02 PM

I hate to only post bad news, but apparently they got a "Stop Work Order" last week.
http://pqinsider.blo...or-daikaya.html

I can't find any more info on what happened, seems like really bad news for Ramen fans though. :/


I have a note into Katsuya, and will wait to hear back from him before changing the title of this thread. Let's cross our fingers and hope for the best. Kats, from what I know of him, is just an all-around nice guy and I wish nothing but the best for him.

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#6 brian

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 09:24 PM

This project is still very much happening, as happens so often it's held up in permitting at the moment. I'm the architect.

#7 ol_ironstomach

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 03:56 PM

Website is running, but still just a facade. Looks like Kats has kicked recruiting for his staff into high gear. From the description:

"We are a two concept restaurant; the first floor is a traditional Sapporo-style ramen shop, while the second floor is our take on a Japanese Izakaya. Our Chef/Partner is Katsuya Fukushima, a veteran of DC restaurants such as minibar and Cafe Atlantico. We will be open for lunch and dinner, using both local products and specialty goods from Japan. The Izakaya will have a comprehensive bar program, with high quality cocktails, a large selection of Japanese sake, whiskey, and shochu, an in depth wine list, and over 40 Japanese and local beers."


Follow the link for one blogger's notes and photos from the pop-up preview at Starchefs ICC in October.

Now that Suna has opened, and Range is in preview mode, will Daikaya open in time to compete for honors with the class of 2012, or 2013?

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#8 darkstar965

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 08:07 PM

Now that Suna has opened, and Range is in preview mode, will Daikaya open in time to compete for honors with the class of 2012, or 2013?


And, more directly competitive, Izakaya Seki for this year's class as well.

At this point, I don't mind at all if Daikaya doesn't open before year end, which seems pretty unlikely at this point anyway. I'm just excited that it's really rolling and will open soon. Izakaya Seki restored my faith that much more could be done with Japanese in the city (wasn't so sure foolishly). Daikaya is a very exciting project.

#9 DaRiv18

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 07:24 AM

I understand that a separate Japanese cocktail bar is opening semi-in-tandem with Daikaya, a block away under Fuel Pizza in the Oriental Building. At the ANC meeting, the agent stated it would offer the biggest selection of Japanese whiskeys on the east coast? I doubt they will bring in Japanese bartenders, or even feature a hard shake, but apparent ly the chef really got into cocktails last time in Japan.

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#10 brian

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 10:23 PM

while we finish up the restaurant we're hosting a pop-up dinner at the Living Social space January 18th & 19th:

 

https://www.livingso...a-pop-up-dinner

 

Bar Snacks

Cocktail
O-du Fashon: Redemption Rye, Dolin Sweet Vermouth, Bing Cherry Syrup, and Ginseng Bitters

Mushimono -- Steamed
Chawanmushi 
Steamed Egg and Dashi Custard

Namamono -- Cold and Raw
Kaki Kaki Su 
Oysters, Persimmon, and Persimmon Vinegar

Agemono -- Fried
Korokke 
Creamy Corn and Crab Croquette

Takimono -- Simmered
Buta Kakuni 
Slow-Cooked Pork Belly with a Soft Egg 
OR
Yasai Nimono 
Simmered Pot of Seasonal Vegetables

Gohanmono -- Rice Bowl
Takikomigohan 
Japanese Rice Cooked in Broth with Mushrooms and Other Vegetables

Dessert
Purin 
Japanese Vanilla Flan

 

hope to see some of you there!



#11 Albert Yi

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 12:06 PM

I'll be there on Saturday. Looking forward to it!



#12 Albert Yi

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 08:51 PM

So I just came back from the pop up and my experience was very positive. The only miss was the onigiri (which was underseasoned) but everything else was excellent, especially considering how unfamiliar the Living Social space must have been for the chefs and servers. The chawanmushi...wow, like a shot of pure umami flavor. And the pork belly/egg suggest that Daikaya knows how to make ramen toppings. If the rest of their menu is this good, then Izakaya Seki will have a strong new competitor.



#13 ol_ironstomach

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 12:09 AM

Hillvalley asked for a report, and who could possibly say no to her?  Well, how about half-a-no: I'm not going to say too much about the food yet.  Here are some pics of the pop-up preview, with all the caveats that go along with that.  Apologies for the photo quality; these were taken by candlelight to avoid disturbing other diners.

 

Bar Snacks

sweet potato chips, spicy lotus root chips

dh-0032-032.jpg

 

Namamono -- Cold and Raw

"Kaki Kaki Su" - oysters, persimmon, and persimmon vinegar

dh-0032-034.jpg

Very clean flavors, although practically no brine to the oyster.  Variety wasn't indicated, but from the small size I wonder if they were using kusshis?

 

Agemono -- Fried

"Korokke" - creamy corn and crab croquette

dh-0032-035.jpg

For whatever reason, this and the next dish arrived out of sequence.  Delicious, well-fried, and immediately redolent of any one of many Asian cities.

 

Mushimono -- Steamed

"Chawanmushi" - steamed egg and dashi custard with mushrooms, parmesan, and white truffle perfume

dh-0032-039.jpg

Dish of the night IMHO.  Delicate curd, powerful umami.

 

Takimono -- Simmered

"Buta Kakuni" - slow-cooked pork belly with a soft egg

dh-0032-041.jpg

Also excellent, although one wonders if these items really benefit from such restraint when I would happily pound down Sakuramen's street food version all day long.

 

Gohanmono -- Rice Bowl

"Gohanmono - Onigiri" - rice ball with chicken, mushrooms, edamame, and carrots; served with pickled cabbage

dh-0032-043.jpg

Something of a dud for me, with the seaweed and soybeans overpowering the other flavors and textures present.  The pickles were also something of a surprise - instead of a typical sweet rice vinegar brine, the flavors were more akin to those of German pickling spices.

 

Dessert

"Purin" - Japanese vanilla pudding with caramel granite

dh-0032-047.jpg

 

Beverage accompaniments were a Manhattan-like rye cocktail garnished with toasted star anise, a glass of Kirin beer (not, I think, Ichiban), and a miniature carafe of a clean but uncomplicated junmai sake, served chilled.


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#14 DoctorNo

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 02:09 PM

Sad to have missed the Living Social pop up - looks great! When's the actual opening at this point?

#15 Albert Yi

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 03:08 PM

I've heard they will begin serving ramen on Jan 30/31, with the rest of the venue opening up in early February.



#16 cheezepowder

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 08:42 PM

First floor ramen opening at 5pm on Valentine's Day.



#17 brian

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 10:53 AM

here's our ramen menu, finally opening tomorrow!
 
SHIO RAMEN
Salt ramen: pork, beef & chicken stock
(1 Slice Chashu: Roast Pork, Bean Sprouts, Ground Pork, Nori, Scallions.)
 
SHOYU RAMEN
Soy sauce ramen: pork, beef & chicken stock
(1 Slice Chashu: Roast Pork, ½ Nitamago: Soy Marinated Egg, Bean Sprouts,
Ground Pork, Nori, Scallions.)
 
MUGI MISO RAMEN
Barley-miso ramen: pork, beef & chicken stock
(1 Slice Chashu: Roast Pork, Bean Sprouts, Ground Pork, Nori, Scallions.)
 
VEGETABLE SHIO RAMEN
Salt ramen: Vegan stock
(Cabbage, Bean Sprouts, Carrots, Onions, Wood ear Mushroom)
 
Extra toppings:
EXTRA NOODLES
NITAMAGO Soy&ramen stock marinated soft-boiled egg
CHASHU Roast Pork, 3pc.
BUTABARA KAKUNI Braised pork belly, 3pc.
MENMA Soy&ramen stock simmered bamboo
WAKAME Seaweed
BUTTER
CANNED CORN
DRY NORI 2pc.
 
Side dishes:
GYOZA 5pc Pan fried dumpling with pork and cabbage filling
CHAHAN Fried rice, egg, pork, onion, peas, scallions, soy sauce
GOHAN Bowl of steamed white rice
 
Ramen prices range from $12-$13.50, extra toppings $.35 - $3.75, and side dishes from $2-$6.50. Initially we'll be opening at 5pm and adding all-day service once things are running smoothly.

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#18 cheezepowder

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 06:46 AM

I visited Daikaya on Sun night.  They have communal, regular, and counter seating.  The counter seating is in the back and surrounds the open ramen kitchen.
 

I had a counter seat, and I was glued to watching the chefs make each bowl of ramen.  The downside was that this open kitchen, with high flames and steaming liquids, made the place very hot.  Having walked a few blocks through the wind, I was freezing when I came in.  But not long after and before I'd even gotten my ramen, I was sweating in my shirt and sweater.
 

The menu has a different and cool layout, but it's busy.  I was flipping the menu up and down and back and forth.  (You'll see.)

 

My server was helpful and friendly.


I ordered the pork gyoza which the server advised me is made to order and comes out when ready.  The gyoza was nicely fried on one side, and the pork filling was juicy.  The dipping sauce is on the vinegary side.

 

I liked my shoyu (soy sauce) ramen.  The curly noodles were springy chewy, and I found the broth to be not too salty.  The ramen came with cooked bean sprouts, a half soy marinated egg, 2 slices of pork (though normally may be 1 slice of pork in menu noted above), scallions, ground pork, and nori.  I didn't order any add-ons or modify the order.  The egg was soft boiled with a creamy, runny center.  I didn't notice much soy flavor in the egg.  Both the egg and pork slices were cool temperature wise.  Attached is a fuzzy photo of the ramen (I decided not to post it in the Where Did I Dine thread because the photo doesn't show enough of the restaurant so people would just have to guess places that have ramen. But that black box in the background holds the nori that the servers add to the ramen when they pick the ramen up from the counter). 

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#19 Albert Yi

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 10:58 AM

Ugh, I'm always annoyed when the egg or pork are obviously cold. I guess this is one advantage to Toki's approach where they use a soft boiled egg cooked on demand and mostly use shredded pork which isn't as susceptible to being overcooked.



#20 brian

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 12:04 PM

I suggest eating the noodles first - they're at their best when first served, and the broth heats the egg and roast pork within a couple of minutes.



#21 Gary Tanigawa

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 04:57 PM

bean sprouts in ramen :blink: ?



#22 discojing

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 06:09 PM

so excited to try this out! the decor looks a little crazy inside (the bar area), but more normal in the rest of the restaurant.

any idea of how long a wait would be on a saturday night?


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#23 Albert Yi

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 08:31 PM

So this is pretty good ramen.

 

I had the miso with extra chashu. The noodles were good, had decent amount of springiness. The chashu...well I can't really tell you much because mine fell to pieces before I could really taste it. But it seemed pretty tender.

 

I think the broth is the most important part of good ramen and this one was good. A touch too salty, and a bit too fatty, but good enough to sip. I think Ren's miso ramen has the edge here: IMO they have the perfect balance and they use a ton of garlic and ginger to round out the flavor base which I didn't get from the Daikaya broth. But with some experimentation I think they can get there. This is a definite top-3-ramen-in-dc-area contender.

 

Unfortunately, because of the hip decor and its metro accessibility, and the fact that they're gonna be opening up an izakaya also, and the lack of reservations, I'm worried about this place getting mobbed with people.


Ramen Ranking:

 

1) Ren's (just because I don't have to wait 2 hours for a bowl)

2) Toki Underground

3) Daikaya

4) Sakuramen

5) Sushi Taro

6) Various MoCo spots like Temari and Satsuma



#24 Lori Gardner

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 12:06 AM

I was at Daikaya last night and really enjoyed it.  I am also a fan of Ren's based on convenience to where I live (which quite honestly is very important), but also because there are options that have some real kick to them - love the miso tan-tan.

 

If Toki was closer and/or I didn't have to wait hours to get in, I would probably put it as my #1 spot. The homemade sriracha really kick things up a notch. 

 

This is not to take anything away from Daikaya. It's a great addition to the ramen scene- which seems to be heating up. I added chili oil to the broth because I do prefer some zing, but the noodles are pretty terrific. 

 

At 8:00 pm there were plenty of spots available but it seemed to get more crowded a little later.  Hopefully Daikaya will do well, but not so well that it's impossible to get in.


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#25 turbogrrl

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 08:41 AM

As usual, should probably let things shake out for a few months before making any final decisions, and once they open for lunch (maybe a few more weeks, they said) I'll definitely be back. But for dinner, my preferences are still solidly Sakuramen and Toki.

 

We went on monday; the restaurant was hopping, and the advertised 30 minute wait stretched into an hour. Unfortunately we were standing in the vestibule for all of that hour. (It's a very attractive vestibule, at least.)

 

I had the Mugi Miso, Nick had the Shoyu. Summary: the noodles were outstanding, the chasu bland, and the pork belly was extremely tender but flavourless. Both broths were good, but were a bit too delicate; they didn't really stand up to the noodles. The sprouts were a discordant note in an otherwise elegant bowl. It was pleasant to have the option of sake or sapporo with dinner; after a day full of stupid I needed a drink. There is only one sake— it's a single-serve sake, I forgot to catch the brand. 

 

The vibe is trendy and hipster, the menu is a chaotic exercise in typography, and I am clearly just turning into a cranky old woman. It was a good first showing, and I hope that business continues steadily.


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#26 spaztic1215

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 03:10 PM

At the risk of sounding like a ramen-snob, I really wish that people would stop comparing places that seek to serve traditional Sapporo-style ramen (like Ren's, Daikaya, and occasionally Sushi Taro) to fusion, non-traditional noodle shops like Toki, Sakuramen, and Taan.

 

I had the chance to try both the Shoyu ramen and Mugi-Miso ramen at Daikaya on Saturday evening.  Before Daikaya opened, my boyfriend and I would regularly get our ramen fix at the consistently solid Ren's.  Last night, we came with very reserved expectations, but now I have to say that Daikaya is serving hands down the best and most authentic ramen in the DC metro area.

 

Both the shoyu and mugi-miso were excellent; I was impressed that the shoyu managed to have both texture and depth of flavor, since it's often very difficult to achieve that richness with a mostly soy-flavored broth.  But it avoided the trap of being one-note and was silky, salty, earthy, and rich.  The noodles are perfect.  Springy, chewy, curly and delicious.  And the toppings are well-balanced, not threatening to overshadow the noodles or the broth (ahem, Toki).

 

Now, the standout of the night was the mugi-miso.  I generally prefer miso-flavored ramen broth, and Ren's makes an excellent version, but you do occasionally get a slightly gritty bowl every once in a while (such is the risk of simmering miso).  The mugi-miso at Daikaya was perfectly executed, and had all the wonderful salty and earthy umami of miso, but balanced against this unusual yet amazing complement of char-flavor.  You can spy little black flecks of char in the mugi-miso broth, which lend a wonderful note of toastiness.  It's not unlike the wok-char flavor that accompanies fried rice noodles.  I was so impressed with this unique take on miso broth that I had to ask Katsuya afterward, how he achieved that.  Indeed, he chars the broth aromatics and veggies in a wok to infuse the broth with the char flavor.  Outstanding.

 

I almost never order Shio ramen b/c it is almost invariably disappointing when done at places that rely on toppings over broth.  But I can't wait to go back to Daikaya and try the Shio this time.  Although, I may have to order the Mugi-Miso too, because it's just too good to pass up.


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#27 porcupine

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 08:35 AM

At the risk of sounding like a ramen-snob, I really wish that people would stop comparing places that seek to serve traditional Sapporo-style ramen (like Ren's, Daikaya, and occasionally Sushi Taro) to fusion, non-traditional noodle shops like Toki, Sakuramen, and Taan.

 

How about writing a little primer on what traditional ramen is?


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#28 Bob Loblaw

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 11:13 AM

bean sprouts in ramen :blink: ?

 

I don't think this is uncommon. The standard toppings at Ren's include bean sprouts, and I'm pretty sure I've seen it used in other ramen places in NYC and Japan.



#29 Gadarene

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 11:47 AM

How about writing a little primer on what traditional ramen is?

 

Seconded!



#30 Tweaked

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 01:50 PM

A ramen master visits and nods approval.  Nice little piece from the Washingtonian website.


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#31 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 02:41 PM

In its very simplicity, ramen is extraordinarily complex—a contradiction mirrored in the challenge of eating it: You want to get the noodles in your mouth, but you have to contend with the steaming soup, and armed only with a pair of chopsticks.

 

Really, using chopsticks to eat noodles is a challenge?  :blink:

 

Nishiyama Seimen Company makes noodles for hundreds of restaurants around the world, though the only other place that cooks them in the US is Ren’s Ramen in Wheaton, Maryland. Ishida boards an airplane about 70 times a year to travel to restaurants serving the company’s noodles, and spends much of the rest of his days visiting Japanese ramen shops.

 

So did Ishida also go to Ren's?



#32 washingtony

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 11:32 PM

[. . .]

 

Now, the standout of the night was the mugi-miso.  I generally prefer miso-flavored ramen broth, and Ren's makes an excellent version, but you do occasionally get a slightly gritty bowl every once in a while (such is the risk of simmering miso).  The mugi-miso at Daikaya was perfectly executed, and had all the wonderful salty and earthy umami of miso, but balanced against this unusual yet amazing complement of char-flavor.  You can spy little black flecks of char in the mugi-miso broth, which lend a wonderful note of toastiness.  It's not unlike the wok-char flavor that accompanies fried rice noodles.  I was so impressed with this unique take on miso broth that I had to ask Katsuya afterward, how he achieved that.  Indeed, he chars the broth aromatics and veggies in a wok to infuse the broth with the char flavor.  Outstanding.

 

[. . .]

 

I completely agree about the mugi-miso.  I've tried all four ramens at Daikaya now and the miso is by far my favorite--it's got such depth and earthiness.  Of all of them, I was perhaps most pleasantly surprised by the vegetarian because it's very bright and clean.  It was pretty good but I'll probably always tend to the miso or soy so I can get that hearty, rich, and comforting quality that I like in my pork-laden ramen.  

 

by the way, they started lunch service today.



#33 Kev29

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 10:34 AM

by the way, they started lunch service today.

 

Yes! Thank you, looking forward to trying it out. According to facebook they open at 11:30am...

 

New hours, starting {Sat Feb 2}!
Sun-Mon: 11:30am-10pm
Tues-Thurs: 11:30am-11pm
Fri-Sat: 11:30am-midnight



#34 Marty L.

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 07:21 PM

Statement against interest (since within days it'll be impossible to get seats at lunch):  I've now had the miso and shio for lunch, and am inclined to agree with spaztic1215 wholeheartedly.  Deeply satisfying, with a distinct preference for the miso.  I don't know if it's better than Ren's, but it surely is right up there; and much closer to my office.  Haven't tried Toki for cpmparison.

 

Only complaint is that I wish it were a couple of bucks less, so that it didn't seem like a lunch splurge.  But in light of the high-rent real estate, I suppose it's reasonable -- after all, it's about the same as a single mixed drink at many places around town, and not much more than those scandalous $10 glasses of juice!

 

At the risk of sounding like a ramen-snob, I really wish that people would stop comparing places that seek to serve traditional Sapporo-style ramen (like Ren's, Daikaya, and occasionally Sushi Taro) to fusion, non-traditional noodle shops like Toki, Sakuramen, and Taan.

 

I had the chance to try both the Shoyu ramen and Mugi-Miso ramen at Daikaya on Saturday evening.  Before Daikaya opened, my boyfriend and I would regularly get our ramen fix at the consistently solid Ren's.  Last night, we came with very reserved expectations, but now I have to say that Daikaya is serving hands down the best and most authentic ramen in the DC metro area.

 

Both the shoyu and mugi-miso were excellent; I was impressed that the shoyu managed to have both texture and depth of flavor, since it's often very difficult to achieve that richness with a mostly soy-flavored broth.  But it avoided the trap of being one-note and was silky, salty, earthy, and rich.  The noodles are perfect.  Springy, chewy, curly and delicious.  And the toppings are well-balanced, not threatening to overshadow the noodles or the broth (ahem, Toki).

 

Now, the standout of the night was the mugi-miso.  I generally prefer miso-flavored ramen broth, and Ren's makes an excellent version, but you do occasionally get a slightly gritty bowl every once in a while (such is the risk of simmering miso).  The mugi-miso at Daikaya was perfectly executed, and had all the wonderful salty and earthy umami of miso, but balanced against this unusual yet amazing complement of char-flavor.  You can spy little black flecks of char in the mugi-miso broth, which lend a wonderful note of toastiness.  It's not unlike the wok-char flavor that accompanies fried rice noodles.  I was so impressed with this unique take on miso broth that I had to ask Katsuya afterward, how he achieved that.  Indeed, he chars the broth aromatics and veggies in a wok to infuse the broth with the char flavor.  Outstanding.

 

I almost never order Shio ramen b/c it is almost invariably disappointing when done at places that rely on toppings over broth.  But I can't wait to go back to Daikaya and try the Shio this time.  Although, I may have to order the Mugi-Miso too, because it's just too good to pass up.



#35 turbogrrl

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 10:44 PM

Statement against interest (since within days it'll be impossible to get seats at lunch):  I've now had the miso and shio for lunch, and am inclined to agree with spaztic1215 wholeheartedly.  Deeply satisfying, with a distinct preference for the miso.  I don't know if it's better than Ren's, but it surely is right up there; and much closer to my office.  Haven't tried Toki for comparison.

 

Say hi next time ;-)

 

Having gone back, and had the mugi-miso a second time, I can say that I got a distinctly different (and better) bowl this time. The broth was richer, the sprouts were not raw, and the egg was softer and not so hard-boiled. (The chasu is still bland.) Given that two of the front kitchen staff had started within the last 24 hours, I am impressed... and am feeling justified in saying that it is best to let things shake out for the first couple of months before making final decisions.

 

As for spaztic1215's not wanting to compare 'traditional Sapporo-style ramen (like Ren's, Daikaya, and occasionally Sushi Taro) to fusion, non-traditional noodle shops'... well, that's kind of the name of the game. They are all serving ramen. Or noodle soups, if you will. Traditional preparation is only one of the axes upon which we evaluate these establishments, and it's up to the reader to decide on the rank ordering of the various constraints.

 

Other constraints might include: distance to travel, typical wait times for a table, whether or not alcohol is available, richness of broth, spice options, frequency of availability, pork buns, quality of service, vegetarian options, noodle preparation, other patrons. But at the end of the day: noodles in soup.

 

In this case, very tasty noodles in soup. I'll be back for lunch soon.


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#36 Mark Slater

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Posted 11 March 2013 - 07:44 PM

Three of us had an early bowl of ramen, just before the crowds came. I had the shio, which Katsuya recommended. The others had shoyu and mugi-miso, which I tasted, as well. All 3 delicious. Add some pork belly, sprouts, onions and 2 orders of gyozu. I left very satisfied.


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#37 darkstar965

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Posted 12 March 2013 - 01:25 PM

Interesting.  Really interesting.

HEADLINE

Excellent ramen. Really good gyoza.  Brilliant business model...so far.

CONTEXT

I still haven't been to Toki.  Not avoiding it.  Just didn't want to wait hours and now that it's more accessible, just haven't made it yet.  I have been to Ren's many times and think it excellent as in 'as good as it gets here in the DC area' excellent.  I'm not a ramen expert but I know it some.  I've had ramen in Japan and have asked a lot of questions over the years to learn a bit.

VENUE

Not a lot to say that hasn't already been said.  It's small (maybe about 30-35 capacity) but, imo, very smartly designed to be sophisticated, efficient and comforting from the music, point-of-sale system and small condiment caddies on tables to enable self-service on water, chili oil, gyoza sauce and the like to the lighting, natural woods, cool dark stone wall coverings and coat hooks underneath the counter (guess they heard that feedback proferred on another website).

PHILOSOPHY

As I started to organize my thoughts about the food and service, I realized there was something more foundational at play here.

This is a smart business. Very smart actually.  It's incredible that, until now, DC didn't have a quality ramen spot for lunch. Toki's owner said on Koji last week that they're too small to do lunch but now I'm wondering since Daikaya is pretty small itself. Maybe Toki is smaller but, if so, then Toki should move or expand asap.  Daikaya is going to establish itself with legions of daytime denizens of the city in way that Toki cannot do.  That, in turn, will make it possible for Daikaya to take its business in different directions down the road.

Daikaya is authentic but not totally authentic. Rather, it's authentic where it matters and it has tailored its offerings in ways that make a ton of sense.  Those imported Japanese noodles rock. The broth is rich, savory and complex. The egg is cooked genuinely and perfectly.  But then they have an all-veggie ramen and more of the chefs are white and hispanic than Japanese.  Thing is, this all works very, very well.

I had the shoyu. It wasn't too salty at all. It was savory and absolutely delicious.  I added nothing to it save some pork belly and my only criticism (a small one) is that the single slice I was given, though delicious, was inadequate.  Veggies all fresh and delicious.  I was given an extra egg (I think because I told them I was a first timer when they asked).

Some above (or maybe elsewhere) have knocked the gyoza a bit. I'd have to disagree. Daikaya's is a very strong rendition.  At around 12 minutes, the gyoza requires more time to prepare than the assembly-line ramen because they're grilled to order.  Mine were perfectly toasty on one side as they should be.  And the filling with pork, green onion and shrimp was both generous and delicious.

The service was also quite notable in the best of ways.  In one way, the place seems a raucous hipster spot.  But there's much more going on beneath the surface.  Tables and counter spots turn very quickly as with real Japanese ramen shops.  The waiter asked the right questions of me to gauge how best to serve.  When gyoza is served, they seem to have a standardized approach of pouring some of the "gyoza sauce" into a personal side dish and then squeezing a few drops of the imported chili oil into it while describing what's in the sauce and encouraging addition of more chili oil to taste by "squeezing the top of the bottle" (which would be a bit counterintuitive otherwise). Friendly, professional, and appreciably efficient.

As already known, Daikaya will be opening an Izakaya upstairs with fuller menu. I was told it's about a month away.  I'll be sure to visit that early but I question that as a next move versus expanding the space for ramen and maybe thinking about a 2nd ramen location in a year. Will the izakaya really be competitive with Seki (another super new spot imo)?  My concern is probably misplaced. Surely DC can support a few great izakayas. But a great ramen shop?  In town? That serves lunch?  Now, that's something we didn't have and, judging by the out-the-door line at midday today (when the rain was still falling), this is scratching a big itch.

COMPARISONS

Ren's:  Daikaya is obviously a bit more expensive and I also agree with others that Daikaya has the better noodles.  Both spots are excellent imho.  We're lucky to have both of them.

Toki:  Can't say since haven't been but my sense is that Daikaya is closer on the coolness spectrum to Toki than it is to Ren's, which isn't at all trying to be cool in any way.  I care more about what's in the bowl than that other stuff but I did enjoy Daikaya's space (and their music :-)).

Comparing Daikaya to Other Lunch Spots on My Mind

Yesterday, I met a friend for lunch at the venerable Peacock Cafe in Georgetown. While it wasn't a disaster, I paid around $33 for some pretty consistently mediocre food and won't be going back there anytime soon.  I paid around $20 here, for ramen and for gyoza but no drinks.

On my way out of Daikaya, I peeked into Graffiato next door.  Was around 1pm.  Mostly empty. I've written about Graffiato before so won't do that again here other than to observe that you'd be hard pressed to find two value propositions more different right next door to each other for lunch.  As crazy as it may seem to say, I think Daikaya will steal significant business from Graffiato despite the obvious fact that they are wholly different cuisines and concepts. The both were hugely hyped pre-open but, having done lunch at both, I conclude that hype is not an indicator of much of anything worthwhile.

VALUE & BOTTOM LINE

Some have written (rightly) that Daikaya is a bit expensive relative to other ramen shops (Ren's or NY maybe?).  I don't see that at all. It may be a dollar or two more for like ramen but, given the quality of everything and the central DC location, that's immaterial.  Again acknowledging that I'm comparing the proverbial apples and oranges to some degree, you can pay around 20 bucks here for a warm, satisfying and delicious lunch (more for beer of course) or you can pay 30 and up next door or at many other mediocre spots across the area.

Daikaya is a huge win for DC and for all that love this type of cuisine.  I both hope and expect it to be with us for a long time because, behind all the great food and venue and service, this is a place that should generate serious and sustainable positive cash flow.  Kudos to all involved. 


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#38 Starfer

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Posted 12 March 2013 - 06:42 PM

Ren's and Daikaya source their ramen from the same company, Nishiyama Seimen Company, Sapporo, Japan.


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#39 spaztic1215

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Posted 12 March 2013 - 08:05 PM

I don't know that I could tell the difference between the noodles at Daikaya and Ren's, and yes, they both source their noodles from Nishiyama, the Washington City Paper noted that Daikaya's noodles are custom-made to spec (this was also mentioned on the Kojo Nnamdi show):

 

"During that trip, Fukushima spent two weeks cooking alongside “Ramen Master” Sakae Ishida at the Nishiyama Seimen noodle factory that supplies Daikaya with its customized aged noodles."

http://www.washingto...ditional-ramen/



#40 DaRiv18

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 12:55 AM

On one hand, I try not to get "too personal" when I post.  On the other hand, one should be able to criticize a food critic's criticism (again, without getting "too personal") -- otherwise, this entire board becomes a huge joke. After all, any criticism of a restaurant is inherently personal to those who are its stakeholders.  So what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  I'd hate to take ourselves too seriously and would rather treat our restaurant teams and our critics as equally as I can -- without personal attacks. 

 

Back to Daikaya.  I've been several times and think it's a great addition to the city.  The noodles are great, I think their curl is what makes them the first ramen that I am able to slurp properly.  I've heard the Kojo segment in which Daikaya claims it is striving for "balance", and I think that they have achieved it well.  The noodles are excellent, the broth is great, I don't quite know how to evaluate the tare yet, and the toppings are fine.

 

If we are comparing Daikaya to Toki Underground, they are two totally different animals.  Daikaya is balanced, light, and elegant.  TU is like soul-food;  rich, fatty broth, average noodles (these are straight, have a tendency to clump).  I happen to like the toppings at Toki much better.  The egg is soft and runny, the pork belly is thick and lucious, and their program has matured enough to offer many other special toppings.  I get the sense that there is often local sourcing for these toppings, but that is just my impression.  But if Toki's toppings were used in Daikaya's system, the balance would be ruined for sure. 

 

darkstar965, does Daikaya offer gluten-free products?  The vegan ramen?


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#41 darkstar965

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Posted 13 March 2013 - 01:08 AM

...

 

darkstar965, does Daikaya offer gluten-free products?  The vegan ramen?

 

Funny you'd ask that, My +1 is GF.  Was at Daikaya today w/o her.  While I'm not certain, I did look and don't think there are really GF options on menu since no GF noodles nor dumpling wrappers.  The soy sauce also makes that tough.  Didn't ask but also didn't see any evidence of Tamari on offer.  I actually remember that question being asked by a listener on the Kojo segment and, whoever answered it (Toki or Daikaya) basically said they couldn't make GF alternatives work to a good-enough standard.  All said, I think someone GF could get a good bowl of soup at Daikaya that just wouldn't be ramen.  The broth is substantive and interesting.  Add in extra proteins and veggies but no noodles and it'd likely be a fine bowl of soup.  We'll actually be trying that as an experiment in the next few weeks.   Can report back whether she enjoys it.

 

BTW, realized only retrospectively what had caused my feeling that the bowl was light on chasu.  Mine only had the one thinner-cut slice that I almost missed since it had settled on the bottom of the bowl.  The shoyu includes that but I'd ordered the extra portion of pork belly.  Didn't get it but also wasn't charged for it.  Think that would have been a few dollars more. So a minor service miscue there they'd surely have rectified had I raised it. 



#42 darkstar965

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 01:57 PM

Enjoyed Daikaya so much a couple of days ago, made it back today with a friend who just returned from Japan and who I knew would love it.  He did.

 

Got the gyoza again. Enjoyed them again quite a bit and learned a bit more.  Daikaya makes their gyoza in a back or side kitchen so the process isn't visible to customers even if seated at the counter.  The open kitchen just does ramen.  In the traditional style, they are steaming and pan frying their gyoza with some type of skillet being used to sear and another piece of equipment (our waitress didn't know what it was called) 'into which gyoza are inserted and then steam comes up from below.' She described it as similar to but not exactly the same as a salamander.  Some kind of steamer about which I'm now curious. I'd love to see a dr event here with some show and tell but, given how slammed this place always is, tough to see that happening anytime soon.

 

For ramen, my dining companion got the shio and I went for the migo-miso.  Loved the migo-miso but maybe I'd give a slight edge to the shoyu I had a couple of days ago for personal taste.  I'll be trying all of them more in months to come so maybe that view will change. Today, I ordered and received the pork belly add-in.  Three thick slices though agree with the poster upthread who described it as under-seasoned (bit bland).

 

As much as anything, I continue to be very impressed with how genuinely nice, helpful and well trained all the staff seem to be.  One of the young servers explained to us how she and all her front-of-house peers were trained in gyoza production and had to make 60 or more of them during training. Loved hearing that.  And, despite how quickly the place moves and tables turn, they always seem happy to answer questions.  The hostess told us we'd wait about 20 min for our seats today, then seated us in 10 minutes and still apologized profusely.  T minus two weeks for the upstairs Izakaya.



#43 sheldman

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 11:58 AM

Just a quick note from non-expert to add another very positive review.  Me: shoyu ramen + wakame + corn.  Son: vegetarian ramen + bamboo + wakame.  Both delicious.  Staff was very energetic, positive-minded and helpful.  They seem proud of what they're serving (the origin of the noodles, suggestions about toppings, etc.), which is nice.  The bamboo is a very nice add-on.  Getting crowded even by a few minutes after 11:30 on a Saturday.



#44 soapy

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 08:02 AM

I went to Daikaya last night with a group of friends. We lucked out into getting the back room which offers a lot of privacy (although it had a sliding door we kept sliding it shut an the staff kept either opening the door or sort of lurking in on us to see if we were done.) The back room is wall papered with pictures from Japan but a few papers are already falling down

 

The ramen was very good. I think my personal preference is more to Toki over Daikaya but I enjoyed Daikaya's ramen all the same. I had the shoyu with nitamango (which were a highlight of the meal, the way the yoke was almost a jellied was fantastic) and pork belly. I was curious about trying it with corn or butter but I ended up not getting it.

 

Their gyoza are superb, really excellent fillings and griddled perfectly to have that statisfying crunchy griddle mark.
 

The self-service condiments and water pitcher is very smart. There was this mystery container that had some kind of red pepper flakes that made the broth pleasantly spicy.



#45 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 08:44 AM

I just noticed that their menu is now online.  I love how their canned corn is harvested at its peak!  That's some good menu writing.



#46 ladi kai lemoni

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 12:10 PM

Made my return visit to Daikaya on Friday night, and was glad I opted for the shio this time around (as well as the "peak-harvested" canned corn  :lol:). I think the smoky/roasted flavor of the broth with the lightly charred onions and bean sprouts = an A+ combo. I think a testament to that bowl was the fact that I left nothing in the bowl except maybe a half-inch of broth.


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#47 B.A.R.

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 12:04 PM

Things I learned at lunch today:

 

1) No matter how frequently I use chopsticks, I will never develop facility with them. Ramen with poor chopstick skills will ruin a shirt and tie.

 

2) The bar stools here are very uncomfortable, probably by design to discourage lingering. Almost fell off twice (not drinking, either)

 

3) There is great energy in the restaurant, action, soundtrack, noise, etc and the menu layout is a brilliant piece of design, IMHO.

 

4) The Shio Ramen here is very, very good. A delicious, filling, and invigorating meal in a bowl.


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#48 Barbara

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 01:02 PM

Things I learned at lunch today:

 

1) No matter how frequently I use chopsticks, I will never develop facility with them. Ramen with poor chopstick skills will ruin a shirt and tie.

 

I gave up trying to eat with chopsticks a long, long time ago. I always get a fork to eat any kind of Asian noodle soup (or any other kind of Asian food) and have never been given any attitude about it.  Can't deal with slurping the noodles, either, so sue me.



#49 Genevieve

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 01:52 PM

Three of us had an early bowl of ramen, just before the crowds came. I had the shio, which Katsuya recommended. The others had shoyu and mugi-miso, which I tasted, as well. All 3 delicious. Add some pork belly, sprouts, onions and 2 orders of gyozu. I left very satisfied.

 

What time did the crowds arrive?  (Planning to go there for lunch in the next week or two)



#50 Mark Slater

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 01:55 PM

What time did the crowds arrive?  (Planning to go there for lunch in the next week or two)

 

We got there at 5:30. Crowded by 6.


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