Instant ramen better than new Chinatown eatery
Daikaya is a new Japanese ramen restaurant that opened in Chinatown across from Gallery Place and the Verizon Center on Valentine’s Day. But, the food and service on this particular Wednesday left a lot to be desired. In fact, the noodles in one of those foam cups you cook by adding boiling water was tastier than what was in my bowl.
Partners Katsuya Fukushima, Yama Jewayni and Daisuke Utagawa opened the Sapporo-style ramen bar downstairs at 705 6th St. NW next to Graffiato first and plan to open a 90-seat izakaya (Japanese bar with restaurant) upstairs soon. First-timers may have trouble finding the place, which has only an 8 1/2-by-11 inch sheet of paper on the door for a sign. But the building has a distinctive Asian fan motif on the upper floors.
Fukushima, who worked for José Andrés at Cafe Atlantico and Minibar, as well as at Vidalia and Cashion’s Eat Place, is running the kitchen at both restaurants. The ramen is cooked in an open kitchen at the back of the restaurants with a counter for diner seating around it.
Restaurant offers small menu
Sapporo ramen broth is clear and miso based. The sparse menu includes only four types: shio ($11.50) with salt ramen; pork, beef and chicken stock; a slice of roast pork; bean sprouts; ground pork; nori (dried seaweed), and scallions; shoyu ($11.75) with soy sauce ramen and the same stock, roast pork, half of a soy marinated hard-boiled egg, sprouts, ground pork, nori and scallions; mugi-miso ($12.75) with barley-miso ramen, the same stock, roast pork, sprouts, ground pork, nori and scallions; and vegetable shio ($12.75) with vegan stock, cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, onions and wood ear mushrooms. There are a few toppings for an extra fee.
Side dishes include gyoza ($5.50 for five), pan pried dumplings filled with pork and cabbage; and gohan ($2.00), steamed white rice. On the drink menu, there is Sapporo beer on tap for $4.75; sake for $6.75; Calpics, a milky Japanese drink for $3.50; and canned Coca-Cola products for $2.50 each.
Dining room seats only 40
The night I visited, diners were packed into small eight-person islands with uncomfortable stools instead of chairs. Diners are seated side-by-side and must hold their coats on their laps while trying to slurp their soup with spoons and chopsticks. The noise level is high, and it is hard to hear your friends and the server. Until recently, the restaurant was only open from 5 p.m. to midnight, but is began opening for lunch on March 2. Reservations are not accepted.
How many heels does it get?
Our server wasn’t very attentive and our dumplings never arrived until we asked about them, 30 minutes after we ordered and after our ramen arrived. She didn’t even seem to remember that we ordered them, but mumbled that it takes about 12 minutes. I had the shoyu ramen. The roast pork was fatty, the noodles sparse and the soy egg flavorless with an over abundance of bean sprouts. Others said the basic shio was good, but the vegetarian dish fell flat too. I’m not sure about the gyzoa, since ours never arrived. There are no desserts, but there is always Crepes on the Walk outside Gallery Place.
Hopefully, with some more time under its belt, Daikaya’s food and service will get better. But based on my first experience, I won’t be going back.
My ranking: 1 Heel
Article by DC on Heels Entertainment Editor Mark Heckathorn.