If you know me at all, you know to expect frequent proclamations from me regarding the great love I have in my heart for the West Coast using one of the following statements: “West Coast, best coast” or “West side ’til I die” after which I may proceed to *throw the dub up.* Just kidding about the gang signs part (not kidding about the other stuff just FYI). Though for all my fiery devotion to the left coast, it wasn't until last Friday - nearly 23 years into my life - that I stepped foot in Southern California for the first time. I wish I could recount for you all a leisurely vacay spent strolling down palm tree lined beaches or stumbling onto some Hollywood set or some other romanticized notion I have of Los Angeles… but truth be told, I was only in town for the day and the majority of said day was spent inside an office building in Santa Monica. However, I did have a precious few hours before my flight back to NorCal and guess what I did? Take a wild guess, I dare you. After an informal survey of where I ought to go in LA conducted via Facebook status, many a friends recommended I hit up Daikokuya. Well friends, suggestions I took and Daikokuya I went (Sawtelle Blvd location). And can I just say, hands down coolest interior decor I’ve ever seen and one of the best ramen bowls I've ever had (so far). When you walk into Daikokuya, you are actually transported back in time to the Meiji Restoration. And the best part about it is the interior actually feels like an exterior.
I’d liken the dining experience to that of eating outside at a cozy alleyway hole-in-the-wall, but like, in 20th century Japan. Glancing up I saw vintage ads, tin signs, an antique barber's pole, an awning, and red lanterns. On another wall, the dimly backlit windows that hung below the false roofing gave off the impression of life and inhabitation. And as if that wasn’t enough: crooning, tinny melodies sounding of old timey phonograph records played in the background. Scene: me sitting in my seat staring up and around in wide-eye wonderment like a newborn babe. Perhaps this would be my natural reaction if I were to actually travel backward in time...
Anyway, the ramen here takes two forms: Daikokuya Ramen and Daikokuya Spicy Miso Ramen. And if you know me, you not only know that I belong on this side of the Mississippi but when given the choice, I will always go spicy. The ramen set down before me contained broth that displayed a fiery, angry shade of red - just how I like it - topped off with roasted pork, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, scallions, and sesame seeds.
The broth was certainly the star of the show (as it always should be) as the garlicky, spicy soup infused itself into each bite. So much so that for the first time ever I did not mind the presence of bamboo shoots in my ramen - crazy right? And the sesame seeds are such a clever addition. They thickened the broth, bestowing upon it a lovely texture and delivering a satisfying crunch with each bite. The heavy broth was balanced perfectly by the plain egg noodles and simple toppings. Dare I say that this winning bowl of ramen is a contender for top spot in my definitive list of best ramen restaurants in the U S of A - delicious enough to dethrone Ippudo in NYC?? Believe me when I say, this is a bicoastal rivalry of Pac-vs-Biggie proportions!
In Summary: Best of the West so far - in both deliciousness and dining experience.