Daikokuya – West Los Angeles, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

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!

The Interior... that looks like a busy Tokyo street!

The Interior… that looks like a busy Tokyo street!

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.

Kotteri Ramen

Kotteri Ramen

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.

Gyoza

Gyoza

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.

Pork Fried Rice (Chahan)

Pork Fried Rice (Chahan)

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.

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Check out Daikokuya: daikoku-ten.com

2208 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064

See their Yelp reviews here!

Rutt’s Hawaiian Cafe – Culver City, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Anyone remember the scene in 50 First Dates when Lucy hangs out at the Hukilau Cafe building cabins out of waffles? That was the first thing that came to mind the very first time I walked through the yellow screen door of Rutt’s Hawaiian Cafe. We frequently stop by on lazy Sunday afternoons for one thing — the royales.

Kalua Pork Fried Royale

Kalua Pork Fried Royale

Royales are basically a Hawaiian style mixed rice — generous mountains of rice mixed with bean sprouts, strips of egg omelet, green onions, and your choice of meat ranging from kalua pork to Portuguese sausage to the Hawaiian staple SPAM. Even better – you can order them fried! They come in three sizes: the junior (one scoop of rice & two eggs), the regular (two scoops of rice & three eggs), and the king (three scoops of rice & four eggs). Don’t be fooled – each “scoop” is giant. The one pictured above is only a junior!

A closer look - kalua pork royale

A closer look – kalua pork royale

If I am ordering takeout or otherwise intending to have leftovers for the next day’s lunch, I would order a regular sized royale. Otherwise, the junior is more than enough especially when paired with the (free – just ask!) Hawaiian sweet roll that comes with it. The kalua pork is my favorite as it is always juicy, flavorful, and reminiscent of luaus (no matter how touristy).  An artistic drizzle of sriracha and I’m set!

The Original Royale - fried, no bean sprouts

The Original Royale – fried, no bean sprouts

Martin’s usual is the Original Royale fried with no bean sprouts. Though his plate is always sadly devoid of vegetables, I think the chef sometimes makes up for it with extra meat. That or the Original Royale is like the Meat Lover’s Pizza of mixed rice dishes. Chopped slivers of Chinese BBQ pork (char siu) and rounds of Portuguese sausage add savory flavor to this royale. (PS: Martin only asked for that Hawaiian roll so I could have it. Isn’t he the best?!)

Filet of Sole

Filet of Sole

Occasionally I’ll stray from the Royales section and try something different. The plate specials are good (especially the mixed plate special that features a combination of kalbi, kalua pork, and teriyaki chicken for only $8!) but my latest discovery was the filet of sole. A football sized, 1/2-inch thick filet of white fish breaded in panko (?) and grilled to perfection. The fish was flaky and moist, barely opaque. It comes with two scoops of rice and (of course) macaroni salad.

To round out my island adventure, I sometimes splurge on either a can of ice cold UCC Kona Coffee or, if I spot it on the specials menu, a manapua (BBQ pork bun or cha siu bao). On my first visit, I also ordered the haupia for dessert, but I don’t think I have seen it recently. A traditional Hawaiian dessert, haupia is essentially a coconut pudding, and the one at Rutt’s was topped with extra toasted coconut shavings. Yummy coconutty goodness.

As if the food weren’t enough reason to swing by, the prices can’t be beat! About $10 will usually get me enough food for two meals. The parking is rarely a hassle with plentiful metered street parking immediately in front, and the service is so friendly. Do yourself a favor and hula on over to Rutt’s! Alooooooooha~

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Check out Rutt’s Hawaiian Cafe: ruttshawaiiancafe.com (recently redesigned!)

12114 Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90066

See their Yelp reviews here!

Edamame Fried Rice

Main Dishes, Recipes, Side Dishes

Some days we get to go out and splurge on decadent dinners, but most days we’re just a couple of recent college grads who want to sit down to some homemade comfort food after a long day at work. For us, fried rice is one of these comfort dishes that always comes through for us with a satisfying meal when we’re pressed for time. Recently, I started added edamame to my fried rice. It was a weird change since, as a child, I didn’t even like peas in my fried rice and I would spend the first five minutes in front of my bowl carefully extracting each pea one by one with my chopsticks. But for whatever reason, I love adding edamame to my fried rice, and Trader Joe’s sells them already shelled and frozen, making life that much easier. Edamame, or green immature soybeans, are a great way of kicking up a plain ol’ fried rice with some beautiful bright green color and a nice crunchy texture, not to mention the high protein and fiber content! Martin doesn’t like the change in texture, so sometimes I just add some to my portion, or if I have leftovers, I’ll toss in a handful of edamame straight out of the freezer and heat them up together in the microwave.

Voila! The Finished Product

Without further ado, here is the recipe for making this ovo-vegetarian (that is, vegetarian + eggs) dish that you could serve as a side dish or eat on its own as a hearty, well-balanced entree.

Ingredients:

3 cups of cooked white jasmine rice (see our com do entry for notes about the type of rice and prep method)

2 eggs, 3 if you like your fried rice extra egg-y

1 cup of edamame, shelled and parboiled (or the pre-shelled ones straight out of the freezer)

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

Olive Oil

Garlic Salt

Black Pepper

Maggi, soy sauce, or other soy-based seasoning sauces (we like Golden Mountain)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or wok (you’ll want lots of room to mix and toss the rice around) on medium-high heat. Saute the garlic and onions until softened and almost translucent. Add the edamame. You’re mostly looking to “defrost” them if using frozen, but I ended up browning mine a bit and it tasted pretty good with a nice nutty flavor.

Sauteed onions, garlic, and edamame

Pile on the rice and crack the eggs on top. Stir vigorously to coat so that everything is a nice golden color.

That’s Martin stirring vigorously.

Season to taste with some garlic salt, black pepper, and soy sauce of choice. If you like your rice a bit crispy, crank the heat up to high and let the rice sit for a few minutes, stirring occasionally just enough to prevent burning but not too frequently so it will have a chance to brown. Serves 4.

Bon appetit!

Let us know how it goes! We hope you’ll add this recipe to your weeknight dinner rotation.