Time to tackle a contentious topic — the best ramen in LA. Los Angeles is teeming with authentic, hole-in-the-wall ramen joints that have attracted quite a cult following. We used to hop in our car and brave the network of freeways all the way to Downtown LA, only to viciously fend off muggles in our search for precious street parking. And for what? To stand out on the sidewalk in the cold (because of course, ramen tastes best when it’s cold outside) for HOURS, awaiting a coveted seat in the shoebox-sized Daikokuya location off 1st Street. But with the popularity of ramen rising, all of the greats have made the move to Little Osaka. We were most excited, of course, for the advent of Daikokuya. Rejoice, Westsiders!
This Westside location off Sawtelle has just about everything going for it — the parking is free and easy (the shopping center has a multi-story structure), the wait is considerably less as the venue can accommodate a bit more seating, and the food is just as good as the original Little Tokyo location. Winner winner, ramen dinner. Just remember to sign up on the clipboard just inside the door; otherwise you’ll end up standing around looking confused among the throngs of visitors. If you get nothing else from this blog post, I hope we can at least help prevent you from looking like a newbie.
As we’ve mentioned before, there are many styles of ramen in Japan. Tokyo style ramen is different from that of Sapporo or Kyoto, and they’re all delicious in their own ways. But if pressed to choose a favorite, Martin and I would have to give a nod to Hakata style tonkotsu ramen. Tonkotsu, not to be confused with tonkatsu (breaded and fried pork chop – also delicious), refers to a broth made from stewing pork bones for a very long time to render the fat and yield an unctuous, guilty-pleasure experience. Cue the namesake Daikoku Ramen. Make yours even more decadent by ordering it kotteri-style… Japanese for “rich” or “thick” but I translate it as extra fatty. The presence of extra fat globules is even enough to turn the broth opaque in color, but the sensory overload from this flavor boost is so worth it. The noodles are of the thicker variety and are always al dente. Add in thick slices of tender chashu pork, strips of bamboo (menma), a hardboiled soy sauce egg (ajitama), and a generous handful of green onion (negi) and you have what I personally believe to be worthy of the title Best Ramen in Los Angeles.
Ramen is not the only dish worth ordering here. If you have the stomach space, make room for an order of gyoza. Hand rolled, rectangular-shaped potstickers that are wok fried and always end up with plenty of extra crispy browned edges. Served under a mountain of green onions and alongside a tiny pitcher of sweet and savory gyoza sauce. If I remember correctly, one order is comprised of an odd number of dumplings, leaving us to duel
to the death over the last one.
For the extra hungry (or for those who want to save leftovers for the next day’s lunch), you can also add on a “side dish” and make your meal a ramen set. Oyakodon (chicken and egg, over rice), chashu pork over rice, and our favorite — pork fried rice (chahan). A side order is one giant scoop, and an a la carte order is two giant scoops. If we’re both in the mood for extra chahan, we’ll split the a la carte order (I think it comes out to $0.50 cheaper or something like that). Wok fried rice sprinkled with bits of pork, corn, and green onion and served with pickled red ginger (beni shoga), the only thing better than eating this on the spot is bringing it home and drizzling sriracha over a reheated portion for the most awesome brown bag lunch ever.
The Little Tokyo location will always be our first love, but this closer and newer Westside Daikokuya, with its interior decor that resembles a Tokyo street, is really winning us over. Plus, they have takoyaki. I haven’t ordered it yet, but that’s one of my favorite things in the world so you can bet I’ll be trying it soon. The food is stellar and the service is so friendly; they’re very attentive about refilling drinks (including the iced green tea!). I even left behind my camera here once, and they very kindly held it for me by the closely guarded cash register for safe-keeping. Run, don’t walk, to my pick for Best Ramen in LA.
Check out Daikokuya: daikoku-ten.com
2208 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
See their Yelp reviews here!