All along First Street in downtown Little Tokyo, there is only one ramen shop so popular that its customers often wait outside in the cold for almost an hour long. This is Daikokuya-the most popular ramen restaurant in downtown known for its specialty pork-flavored broth.
I went there on a busy Saturday night. The servers and cooks were scrambling to keep up with the perpetual stream of relentlessly hungry customers-most of them in their 20’s. You simply sit down, order your bowl of noodles, slurp it up, and leave. The popularity of this joint has expanded like wildfire; another location already exists in Costa Mesa, one just recently opened in Monterey Park, and another one is developing in Hacienda Heights. So what is the big deal?
Their signature dish is the hot ramen soup-the only one on the menu. Created out of soy sauce and pork stock from pork bones that is cooked all day, thus reaping in the full flavor of the animal (for first time readers, I am NOT a vegetarian), you can smell the aroma of it upon entering the shop. After all this wondrous activity, the broth is then transferred into a good-sized bowl, the cooks toss in a generous portion of ramen noodles, chives, a whole boiled egg, and even more pork. The result-after all the hype and waiting-is good, hearty, fulfilling, salty, and perhaps even good enough to lift the whole bowl and sip. Nevertheless, it lacks uniqueness in its flavor for simple fact that pork and soy sauce are perhaps two of the most common ingredients in common Japanese food. Part of Daikokuya’s huge success comes from their talent in perfecting the combination these two essential flavors. Yes, the broth is excellent however, the other ramen shop neighbors (of who I will be writing about shortly) down the street offer much more variety and flavor. Daikokuya’s ramen simply does not match its hectic atmosphere. But it is a must-try for any ramen connoisseur.