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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ramen Adventure: Daikokuya (Arcadia)

Daikokuya in Arcadia
1220 S Golden W Ave
Arcadia, CA 91007

I am no ramen connoisseur, but I have had my fair share of sampling different ramen places. I remember my first time going to the Daikokuya in Little Tokyo a few years back. At the time, I didn't know Daikokuya was one of the more well-known ramen shops in the LA area. A group of friends and I had been shopping in Little Tokyo and just stumbled across Daikokuya right before the big dinner rush - only waiting about 10 minutes to be seated. (That in and of itself is a miracle because I've heard horror stories of people waiting 45 minutes to an hour for this place!) It seemed like a quaint little place with its retro decor, but about 15 minutes after we sat down and ordered, a crowd formed and people were waiting out the door! Ahh... the unquestionable sign that a place is good - or at least, really popular with people... or maybe the place is just too small to accommodate a large number of patrons. But I digress! I remember that hot bowl of ramen and rich tonkotsu broth warming me up on that chilly (for SoCal) night. It just hit the spot!

Fast forward to today and Daikokuya has expanded to locations in Monterey Park and Arcadia. Arcadia's Daikokuya actually just opened at the end of June so I was really excited to try it out with some friends. Interestingly, it's located in a food court, which got me worried about the possible crowd, but at least on a Thursday night, there was nothing to worry about.

The large display menu only showed the large and small Daikokuya ramen (the only type they have) and different rice bowls. My friend ordered the small (half) ramen, while I got the large one. Right as I handed over my money, my other friend discovered there were combos listed on the small menu next to the cashier! As I was cursing my luck at failing to notice this black and white paper and erroneously assuming it was the exact same menu on display, the cashier simply asked if I wanted to change my order. "Wait! I can do that??" (The exact words that came out of my mouth!) She said, "Sure!" and proceeded to return my money and cancel my order. Wow! They really care about making their customers happy!
Half Daikokuya Ramen and Half Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl
I ended up ordering the Half Ramen + Half Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl Combo, which also came with a small side salad. In case you are wondering what that whitish stuff on the bottom left is, there was a sign that said you could make your ramen "Kotteri Style," which has pork back fat that's supposed to make your broth richer. I wasn't sure if I wanted to add back fat to my ramen so I asked if I could have it on the side and the girl graciously obliged. Ah... such friendly and accommodating customer service!

The ramen had more bean sprouts than I cared for and the broth was a little sweeter than how I remembered it from Little Tokyo's Daikokuya. I dipped my chopsticks into the kotteri mixture (which looked a little like rice porridge) and found that it tasted kind of like bone marrow, which made sense since bone marrow is basically stores of fat. In the end, I decided against adding it to my ramen. My ramen did have this surprise though:
Deformed Ramen Egg
What an oddly-shaped egg! My friends and I tried to figure out how it got that way since the yolk was deformed too, but it continues to baffle us. (If you have any idea, please feel free to share!) Not only was the shape a little off-putting, but I was disappointed it wasn't the runny egg that I so often see and enjoy with ramen. The cha-siu meat wasn't all that memorable, but the noodles themselves started out at the firmness I like, but ended up getting soggy toward the end as I rotated between eating the ramen, rice bowl, and salad.

The chicken and egg rice bowl (also known as "oyakodon" in Japanese) had too much sauce and was a bit watery so it was like eating rice with soup. I wish the onions had been cooked longer, but the egg and chicken seemed overcooked. The overall flavor reminded me of Yoshinoya - a place I'm not that fond of. I've made oyakodon at home before using Cooking with Dog's recipe and found that I much prefer the home-cooked version.
As for the side salad, it tasted like an Asian-inspired coleslaw with a creamy, but slightly sweet dressing. I tend to like salads served at Japanese places so I thought it was a nice taste contrast between it and the hot, savory ramen and chicken and egg rice bowl.

Considering it's summer, I don't know if I'll be back to Daikokuya any time soon. I've seen pictures of Daikokuya's ramen coming with a runny, soft-boiled egg so I'm really hoping my egg was a fluke and that on a future visit, I can get the half-cooked eggy goodness I so desire. (Actually, my egg had better be a fluke! It was soooo deformed! >.<) I still want to try some of the other rice bowls, but I honestly prefer the ramen at Santouka and Shinsengumi over what I had at Daikokuya Arcadia. Perhaps when winter (or however close SoCal can get to an actual winter) rolls around, I'll give them another try.


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