Get rude with your ramen at Daikokuya
November 12, 2011
LOS ANGELES, CA – How many times when you were little did your mom tell you not to slurp your soup? Pursing your lips into a tight “o” and drawing in the noodles with a satisfying whoosh was also a no-no. But, really, what fun is that?
Luckily, there’s a place where grown-up soup slurpers and noodle whooshers can finally be free: Daikokuya Ramen. This jam-packed ramen house in Little Tokyo serves up some of the most authentic soup in town and celebrates the lip-smacking-good sounds it inspires. As it turns out, in Japan, loud slurping isn’t considered rude but rather a reflection of how much you are enjoying the meal. From the sounds of it, the patrons who crowd into this small space are in ramen nirvana.
At first glance, it may look no different from the other ramen dens in the area. With a long wooden bar and a few tables for larger parties, the décor is typical of most Japanese noodle shops. After all, the focal point is what’s inside the bowl. The restaurant takes pride in building its soup from carefully crafted ingredients. The Kotteri broth itself is made from pork bones boiled in soy sauce for a full day (sorry, all you vegans/vegetarians!). Only Kurobuta pork is used because it’s known for its tenderness. Eggs are soaked in a special sauce all night before serving. Add to this noodles of just the right consistency (firmness can be altered upon request), some seasoned bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, and green onions, and voila! Ramen perfection.
You will likely get a steam facial from this huge portion of oh-so-hot soup. If it’s a hot, smoggy day, that may sound absolutely unappealing. But Daikokuya’s already anticipated this turn of events, and so they offer a cooled-off version of their ramen called tsukumen. There are other choices on the menu from fried rice to bento box combinations, but it really seems a shame to come here and skip the noodles.
The boisterous crowd ranges from ramen connoisseurs and lunching office types to skint students and homesick Japanese expats. Seats at the counter are often most coveted since they afford you a peek at the ramen-making action. But the small size and unwavering popularity here result in terrible waits. The best way to avoid this is to come during off-peak hours and with very small groups. (I went around 1:30pm on a weekday and avoided any wait.) There are other locations in various SoCal suburbs, but just be aware that the menu varies slightly at each, since they let their head chefs exercise some control over the menu.
It’s super casual here, and with good reason. Slurping and whooshing run a very high risk of ramen-broth splatter. So all those letting their slurping flag fly: you should definitely wear something comfy and not “dry-clean only.”
Read more about Daikokuya in our Los Angeles guide.
Rachel Levin contributed to this post.