Kid-free week continues…this time with a visit to a place I have wanted to indulge in for a while, Daikaya
When the combo eatery first popped up in the Chinatown neighborhood I viewed it from across the street. I could not determine what it was at first glance. As much as it pains me to say this, I initially thought it was some type of tech start-up due to the symbols on the façade . I thought they were WiFi symbols (I know, I know).
In actuality, the markings have a much deeper meaning:
“…made from corten steel and carved with a laser cut pattern of the ancient Japanese map symbol for water. During the day, one can see the beautiful patina of rusting steel. At night, the backlit façade looks like one big Japanese lantern, which is the traditional “open” sign for an izakaya.”
My intention with this visit was to finally try the often raved about Ramen. Upon discovering there was an hour long wait, the host suggested venturing upstairs to the bar.
I later discovered that this “bar” was in fact another part of the Daikaya experience called Izakaya.
Created in the vein of “…a place where one could go with friends to hang out and drink, but also have a bar snack, full supper, or something in between.” That introduces “… the vibrant aesthetics and camaraderie of Japanese casual dining to Washingtonians and give people a place to come together.”
Though the primary function of this visit was simply to wait for seating to become available at Daikaya, once I perused the menu I was eager to sample the offerings.
My drink of choice ($5 price tag since there were 10 minutes left in Happy Hour) was the Draft Mule (seen above) – Vodka, House Ginger Beer, Grapefruit, Vanilla.
For some reason I have been obsessed with all things Moscow Mule lately. I think it has more to do with the fancy copper mug it is customarily served in; while this particular version was void of that, it did not lack in taste. The ginger beer added a kick while the grapefruit added just the right balance giving it a more delicate taste. The vodka wasn’t overpowering but I did notice I became a bit more chatty in nature.
Izakaya has a vast array of small plates ranging from the customary edamame to the more adventurous beef tongue.
I am always up for a challenge so I opted to push the envelope a tiny bit and started with the Fried Garlic from the Otsumami (snacks that compliment alcoholic drinks) or Fun Bites section of the menu.
The Fried Garlic was served with kimchee-miso sauce and pickled garlic and was absolutely delicious. I am a fan of the pungent plant and always have at least one bulb of fresh garlic in my kitchen so I knew this would be a winner. What I wasn’t expecting was how flavorful yet not overpowering it was. Definitely a must try if you plan to visit.
The Grilled Oyster with butter, parmesan cheese and teriyaki sauce was also tasty. I was surprised because I prefer my oysters fresh. My attempts at sampling fried oysters over the years continue to prove disheartening. This one kept the lightness I have grown to love but with a punch of flavor.
The Beef & Broccoli skewer was a surprise hit only because, while the beef was indeed tasty, the clear star of the bite was the broccoli. Izakaya HAS to be working with a real wood fire grill or something in the kitchen because the smoky flavor was impeccable. This dish was on the Kushi/Skewers menu.
Our server kept raving about the “fried chicken” while we were trying to decide which items to try, however when I looked at the menu I didn’t see anything labeled “fried chicken”. She pointed out the Chicken Kara-age with chili-kewpie sauce. Kara-age (approximately kah-rah-ah-ge in English) is a Japanese cooking technique where the chicken is marinated in soy sauce, garlic and ginger and then lightly coated in a seasoned wheat flour or potato starch mix then deep fried in a light oil, which is similar to tempura. The result? A light but very crispy bite of chicken bursting with flavor. We couldn’t stop eating these.
The Chicken Wing (Teba) also quite appetizing.
We sat at the community table, because like Daikaya, Izakaya is equally popular and so for tables they were only able to accommodate those with reservations; not to mention the bar itself was packed. It was comfortable enough and gives a birds eye view of all the happenings in the space. Perfect for a people watcher like myself.
One of our table mates RAVED about the Shishito (sweet, Asian) Peppers which are fried Japanese peppers with a fried egg. These, while good, were not all that great to me. This was probably the only dish for me where there was a lack of substantial flavor.
We finished our tour of all things Japan just in time because as soon as we paid the check our table was ready at Daikaya.
Well played Izakaya, well played indeed.
This is where the magic happens. I didn’t even know I wanted to sit right at the counter where they prepare the Ramen but boy am I glad that was the case. That guy right there in the red shirt? As I watched him prepare each bowl of Sapporo ramen with precision and finesse all I kept hearing in my head was “look at da flick of da wrist…”. It was that serious. You could tell that he is sincere about his craft.
The Ramen shop is Sapporo style. Customary to that approach the miso broth is clear with curly noodles and wok-roasted toppings. The atmosphere is fast-paced and could not be anything other than that because by the time we were seated the wait had risen to two hours and therefore resulted in the seating list being cut off. Apparently we arrived just in time.
Well worth the wait.
As we bobbed our heads along to the classic 90s hip hop pumped through the speakers (totally different from the 80s pop nostalgia we experienced upstairs) we stirred and slurped our way to taste heaven.
One of the biggest misconceptions I have heard about the ramen boom is that it is fancy oodles of noodles. This is simply not the case. Unfortunately the only way I can convince you otherwise is to urge you to try it for yourself.
For my ladies on the dating scene who want to switch it up, I think this would be a cute date night idea to treat your potential/confirmed boo to. He will appreciate the low key atmosphere and the music, and you wont mind treating because it is quite affordable. Both of you will leave full and satisfied.
I kept seeing offerings of soft serve to go, so though I was quite full once I saw the available flavors I had to end the night on a sweet note.
This, my friends, is Avocado Lime soft serve with toasted coconut on top. Yep, basically avocado ice cream. Now before you go frowning your face up it was good. I am not just saying that because I love avocados either. To try and soften the blow for you, the avocado lime flavor isnt mixed all the way through. Its more of a sauce that is right on top. Once you get past that its just basic vanilla soft serve ice cream. That to me was a let down but I know that is probably relief to most of you. In fact, once I got past the sauce, I didnt eat the regular vanilla part. ~shrug~
They also have a wasabi flavor and chocolate hazelnut.
Keep your eyes peeled because Daikaya also offers a ramen making class. Call the restaurant for details. Each time I have wanted to take it its been sold out. I am not surprised.
I cant wait to return.