Saturday, August 05, 2006

daikokuya qu'est-ce que c'est

do you have a soundtrack running through your head? i generally do (which accounts for a lot of things, i reckon). i have found myself driving around downtown, late at night, with a particular sound and tattoo--it's dark, sinister, heavy, yet buoyant; quirky, kitschy, and retro, yet very of the moment. maybe a little futuristic, too. think a sort of mash-up of talking heads' "psycho killer," television's "marquee moon," franz ferdinand's "take me out," about a half dozen songs from say hi to your mom, and um, pink lady's "UFO." it's not about the lyrics (i am notorious for mishearing lyrics--sometimes deliberately), but you know, i'm relating to those pinky grrlz:

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 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''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, 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.


daikokuya daytime

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).

daikokuya hiyashi chuuka

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.

daikokuya nighttime

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 five four; be prepared to be moved to a new space on the counter if you're currently messing up an advantageous seating arrangement.

daikokuya raumen

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


Anthony said...

Is that tattoo as in inky needle or tattoo as in Edinburgh?

"all these memories will be lost like tears in rain" [dies of pork related heart attack]

santos. said...

more like edinburgh than fantasy island.

is that real or replicant pork?

"There's only two of us now."
"Then we're stupid and we'll die."

Anonymous said...

Hi Santos - You don't know how much I miss Daikokuya...or any good ramen(Orochon, Chin Sen Gumi), nothing like it here in SD.

santos. said...

WHAT?! no decent ramen in sd?! i truly feel bad for you, kirk. good ramen on a cold night is one of the great pleasures in life.

OsloFoodie said...

do you have a soundtrack running through your head?

Yes! Lately I have been watching the movie Eye of The Beholder over and over because I am in love with the whole soundtrack and the moods it creates for the movie. And Chrissie Hynde's version of "I wish you love" does run through my head quite often. I guess ending my blog had made me a little melancholy!

And no decent ramen in Oslo too...

santos. said...

oh miss lisa, if you ever find yourself wandering the world--any one of my parts of the world, that is--i shall find you and meet you with an ipod full of soundtracks and a map to the nearest ramen shop!