Daikokuya’s Pork Ramen is All About the Extra Back Fat
Ever since I told people I was moving to L.A. the recommendations have been pouring in from everywhere, and when a good friend/chef told me I had to hit up Daikokuya in Little Tokyo I wasn’t about to argue with her. Unlike great thai food (which is scarce in Midtown Manhattan), there is no shortage of great ramen joints where I came from- from the places in Midtown that cater to Japanese businessmen (like Sapporo, Men Kui Tei, and Menchanko Tei) to the more expensive downtown spots like Ippudo and Momofuku. I love them all. But there was one part of the menu at Daikokuya that I couldn’t help but instantly fall in love with:
Uh… extra back fat in my pork soup?! How could I not?
Daikokuya has four locations, and there is discussion as to which one is the best… but if you work Downtown, the Little Tokyo branch is the only legit Midtown Lunch. And unlike all those New York spots, which offer a number of different kinds of ramen, Daikokuya only has one (which is kind of how it should be.) Tonkotsu ramen- which is made from boiling pork bones- is your only option, although you can get in three ways: standard, tsukemen (where the broth is served in a separate bowl for “dippping”), and kotteri (hello extra back fat!) They have bentos with sushi and rice bowls, but obviously I was there for the ramen.
Daikokuya is no hidden gem in this town, and the line on Friday at 11:45am was no joke. It probably didn’t help that it was about as cold and rainy as it gets in these parts- but from what I understand, it doesn’t matter. The line during lunch at Daikokuya is unavoidable (although from the looks of things, walking in at 1:30-2pm for a late lunch will yield a shorter wait than walking in just before Noon.) And they don’t do take out, so if you’ve gotta be back to work in under an hour you are pretty much SOL.
The ramen itself wasn’t as milky as other tonkotsu I’ve had, but there is no mistaking the rich and porky taste… and you could literally see the “kotteri sheen” floating on top of the soup. I’m used to my hunks of pork being thick and melt in your mouth tender, but found myself really enjoying the thinly sliced belly (with it’s equal ratio of fat to meat in every bite.) The only real downside is the noodles, which were pretty ordinary. Not terrible, but not great.
Admittedly I’m no ramen expert (for that you will have to read this amazing site) but I’ve had my fair share, and speaking as just a regular fat guy who likes pork soup topped with extra pork fat I was totally into Daikokuya. Basically if you work Downtown, and are craving some ramen (and have over an hour for lunch) you can’t do much better than this. Then again, if you like ramen and live in L.A. you probably already knew that.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Pork soup with extra pork fat? Yes please!
- Love the melt in your mouth thinly sliced pork belly
- It’s out of the Midtown Lunch price range, but for the ultimate gut busting lunch you can add a small rice bowl to your ramen for an extra $3-4
- They’ve got a B from the Health Dept. (The dirtier the better… bring it on!)
- Did I mention how much I like pork fat?
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- So overhyped!!! The wait time doesn’t match the quality.
- I don’t like pork
- I prefer other kinds of ramen to tonkotsu, and all they have is tonkotsu
- The kotteri is too rich, I prefer the original
- Santouka (on Centinela & is better, and not that much farther away!
- They got a B! That’s gross.
- Did I mention it’s too long a wait?
Daikokuya, 327 E 1st St (btw. S Central & S. San Pedro), 213-626-1680