Daikaya was greeted with long lines when it opened the doors of its first floor ramen shop on Valentine’s Day. With the Sushiko chef/owner Daisuke Utagawa and co-founder of Eighteenth Street Lounge Yama Jewayni at its helm, it’s no surprise that the restaurant is off to a good start.
Daikaya offers four types of ramen: shio [salt ramen], shoyu [soy sauce ramen], mugi miso [barley-miso], and vegetable shio [salt ramen with vegetable stock].
But for the vegetable shio, the rest come with a pork, beef, and chicken stock, ground and roast pork, bean sprouts, nori, and scallions. The shoyu ramen has one additional ingredient — half of a soy-marinated egg. The vegetable shio comes with cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, onions, and wood ear mushroom.
The chef considers each bowl of ramen to be a complete dish but additional toppings, such as canned corn (not really from a can), pork belly, bamboo, and butter, are available. Diners can also add extra noodles, a soy-marinated egg, roast pork or nori to their ramen. Side dishes include pan-fried pork and cabbage gyoza, pork fried rice, and steamed rice.
I tried the shoyu ramen which I thought was fantastic. The broth was peppery with a lot of depth; the noodles were chewy; and I especially loved the subtle depth and creaminess that the marinated egg brought to the dish. My only disappointment was that I expected and hoped to see the menu offer more adventurous options or add-ons.
In spite of the blustery night, it was, not only the ramen, but also the jar of sake I received that kept me warm. At Daikaya, there’s one type of sake and it comes in its original packaging — a jar that also serves as glassware. The generous serving of sake is solid. Sapporo and non-alcoholic drinks are also available.
The small dining room is all business — quick and efficient service, mostly bar-like seating arrangements, and a few tables. The hostess is very friendly and willing to call or text diners when tables are available, especially when the wait is lengthy. The menu is simple and a little disorienting. [Different categories on the menu are distinguished by their varying orientation so that at least one part of the menu is always upside down no matter which way you turn it.]
The first floor is intended to be reminiscent of Japanese ramen shops, where slurping noodles, as opposed to socializing, is the priority. The izakaya part of the restaurant, which will be housed on the second floor, is scheduled to open in about a month. It will serve as a bar and restaurant with a more social and vibrant atmosphere than its downstairs counterpart.
Daikaya 705 6th St. NW (next to Graffiato) Tel: (202) 589-1600 Hours: Mon - Thu: 5:00 pm - 11:00 pm Fri - Sat: 5:00 pm - 12:00 am Sun: 5:00 pm - 11:00 pm
(Hopes to start serving lunch in a few weeks)