There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
After some delays, Daikaya‘s cold ramen finally made it onto the menu a couple weeks ago. The debut of the summer dish took a little longer than expected after one of the key ingredients—tare (or sauce) that flavors the broth—was held up by the Food and Drug Administration en route from Japan. The tare was custom-made for Daikaya by Nishiyama Seimen Company, which also produces its ramen noodles.
The wait was worth it, though, because the cold ramen trumps the hot stuff on a warm summer day. I stopped by for lunch earlier and opted for the spicy sesame version at the recommendation of the bartender. (You can also choose a soy-based broth.) The noodles are boiled and chilled to order and served in a shallow pool of liquid rather than submerged like a soup. They come topped with chashu (thinly sliced pork), nitamago egg, corn, cucumber, kombu, cherry tomatoes, bean sprouts, arugula, carrots, ginger, and shredded nori. There’s also a vegetarian version with marinated mushrooms rather than pork (which the bartender said was his favorite—even as a meat-eater).
The advantage of the cold noodles is that they don’t get soggy and soft like they do if you don’t slurp them down fast enough in a hot ramen soup. Instead, the texture is pleasantly chewy and al dente. And as co-owner Daisuke Utagawa points out, you can actually taste the distinct flavor of the noodles when they’re served this way. Sadly, due to kitchen-space limitations, the only time you’ll be able to try this $14 bowl is weekdays during lunch in the second-floor izakaya (not the ramen shop).
If you haven’t tried the izakaya’s lunch before, the menu also features a range of rice bowls, including a…taco bowl? No, this isn’t just some made-up fusion on the part of Daikaya. The taco bowl is actually a thing in Japan, thanks to American G.I.s who brought a piece of home to Okinawa. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: pork taco meat, cheddar cheese, cabbage, scallions, and sour cream placed atop a bed of rice rather than wrapped in a tortilla.
Skeptical? At least you can’t go wrong with the cold ramen.
Photo by Jessica Sidman