Shinjirarenai koto deshou keredo
Uso ja nai no uso ja nai no honto no koto yo
Soredemo ii wa chikagoro sukoshi
Chikyuu no otoko ni akita tokoro yo
(This has got to be unbelievable
But it’s not a lie, it’s not a lie, it’s for real
But it’s OK, I’ve been getting
A little sick of Earth men lately)
los angeles and its inhabitants are feeling somewhat...outerspacey...to me these days. is it the heat? life on mars? sad saturn lifestyle? like always, like never before? or, maybe it's just the atmosphere in general that makes me think "blade runner" truly is just 13 years away.
and nowhere do i feel that more than when i'm in daikokuya; whenever i'm in there, blade runner is now. at the very edge of little tokyo, the shop is a dim, narrow space hidden behind a low hanging yellow awning and black noren (shop curtain). once you enter, you feel like you've been transported elsewhere--it looks like an american diner as imagined in tokyo back in the late 'forties, early 'fifties; however, there's a layer of decay that makes you think you are walking into that diner in the tokyo of today. the dark banquettes, red and black linoleum tile, and formica counter seating are utilitarian, but the random old advertising signs, a bookcase crammed with manga, scattered japanese toys, and rabbit-eared portable telly give it a vintage charm that owes more to sanford and son than say, pleasantville. not so much shabby chic as just shabby. however, it is in no way unclean or dirty, but rather extraordinarily tidy and oddly meticulous. very japanese. as is the staff, who are young, casual, friendly and slightly off in their own world, which is neither yours nor mine (no, they're not replicants). does it sound off-putting? i personally find the aesthetic very appealing, very 'spain under the time of franco'....it's how i've decorated my flat; it's probably why i feel very at home in daikokuya. very much a melange of the old, now, and new, as it was, as it is, and as it will be...wow, do i want to say 'world without end' right now or what. mmmm. maybe. not. but like the los angeles of 2019, apparently clashing cultures seem at odds, but are really just supersaturated into the grain of the place. 'tis what it is, baby.
daytime, it's not a particularly busy shop; they open for lunch at 11am, and supposedly close at 2.30pm, but i know i've been there much later than that, and they've always obliged. the one-page menu is pretty straightforward--rice bowls, a few sushi rolls, a couple of appetizers-- but the main draw is the ramen (or raumen, which is the typical roman/romaji spelling of the word), chinese-style noodles. they are served in the traditional ramen-style of a large bowl of slightly chewy noodles with hot, meaty broth, a soy-flavoured egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, and thin slices of tender berkshire (kurobuta/black) pork loin, then topped with a generous amount of green onion and sesame seed. or, you can get it tsukemen-style, where the noodles and toppings are served separately from the broth, which is used as a dipping sauce. a sadly typical afternoon visit finds me a little worse-for-wear, and appreciating the darkness and familiarity of the space (also completely loving the little but powerful airconditioning unit in the summer months). even in the oppressive heat--maybe even because of it, as we were all feeling queasy--the ramen sounded like the way to go, as the broth is a restorative tonic of soy and pork bones, simmered all day in a ginormous stockpot in the front of the kitchen, behind the counter. its murky depths will cure all that had befallen you the night before, my fine son, you can be sure of that (well, that, and um, penicillin, if it was a particularly dubious night).
however, should a hot bowl o' ramen not appeal, daikokuya offers respite in the form of hiyashi chuuka, a cold noodle salad topped with julienned vegetables, pork loin, egg, pickled ginger, and nori, served with a sweetish soy dipping sauce. if the heat's beat you and your appetite down, this is something that will go down well--fresh, light, and healthy. you'll be able to face the rest of the day (and night ahead) after this.
hot daikokuya action really doesn't begin until the sun sets--it's hopping at 10pm and beyond. the dimness of the space becomes a warm, golden beacon in the dark city streets. it is bustling; you walk in and are immediately faced by a full house, and an empty chair that serves as an anchor for a clipboard and pen. add your name to the list, and wait. awhile. don't expect any sort of comfortable accommodation for any group larger than
here is when the ramen is king, but the other items on the menu are equally as satisfying--the tonkatsu pork cutlet is made from the same berkshire pork as the soup stock, oyako don chicken with egg on rice is tender and fluffy, and really, there's no way you can go wrong with a fried item. i'm guessing on that last one. i haven't gone through the whole menu as i find myself returning to the ramen, either traditionally done, or stamina-style (an extra ladle of pork fat, y'all! oink!), time and again. i want to be supersaturated into the grain, and be there until 2019 and beyond.
the website says it closes at 11pm or midnight, i've been there are 2am, so...? there's also a note on the site that says that they close when the stockpot is empty, so maybe they really mean it, even if the witching hour as passed. (and i secretly hope that stockpot never really goes empty)
327 e. 1st street
los angeles 90012