Friday, February 6, 2015


Daikaya is a new Japanese restaurant in Penn Quarter from Chefs Yama Jewayni, Katsuya Fukushima, and Daisuke Utagawa as a collaborative effort to bring the "vibrant aesthetics and camaraderie of Japanese casual dining" to DC.  With a fast pace ramen shop on the first floor and an izakaya on the second floor, there are many modern touches seen in the menu of traditional dishes.  Closest Metro is Chinatown-Gallery Place.

August 2013: On our first visit we dined upstairs for izakaya during Restaurant Week.  We arrived several minutes early and the place was already packed.  So we grabbed a drink at the bar to wait for a table to free up. Keith ordered a Sapporo beer and I tried a Daikaya Chu-Hai made with Ginza No Suzume shochu, grapefruit soda, and non-present rosemary.  My drink was very light and tasted like watered down grapefruit juice.

Image via Daikaya website
I was taken aback by the crowded layout - the large bar was in the middle of the room, directly by the stairway and a handful of tables were on opposite ends of the room.  Servers had to fight through the bar crowd to get their food back and forth from the kitchen, which created a hectic atmosphere.  The music was also fairly louder than most places, causing people in turn to shout in order to carry a conversation.  I did enjoy the decor though with Japanese paper designs and simple wooden elements.  Our server was friendly and totally on her game.  Unfortunately the wait staff was not as experienced and messed up orders the whole night - not just for our table, but the entire section in our part of the room.  It got to the point where each table on either side of us would just speak up and say "I think that dish is ours..." or "I think this one is supposed to be for you..." It was a bit odd, but we didn't mind as much as others did.  I think it was in part due to the fact that we are familiar with the izakaya concept - where dishes come out in random order - so we weren't as concerned about whether our food was coming or not.  In fact, the server realized all the mistakes and simply offered the extras as "on the house" and rectified by bringing out the correct order to each group.  I hope this is not a common occurrence at Daikaya - and just a fluke due to the busy Restaurant Week - otherwise, one would think Daikaya was wasting a lot of profit this way.

Regardless, we dined on many dishes over the course of two hours and enjoyed ourselves.  The full menu of what we ate is listed below.  Highlights included Grilled Avocado with ponzu, wasabi, and nori salt.  This simple vegetable dish was a classic reminder of our recent trip to Japan, so that was fun.

I also enjoyed the grilled Zucchini with lemon and thyme.  For the meat courses, I was impressed with the Chicken Thigh skewer served with housemade yakitori sauce.

Keith devoured the Hambugu, a Japanese-style wagyu beef hamburger steak with red wine Worcestershire sauce.  For an additional dollar, he got it topped with a fried egg that reminded him of the Loco-Moco dish he had in Hawaii.

One thing I would pass on is the sautéed edamame, as they were drowned in way too much oil.

The Tuna Poke was a bit fishy and while I love aji in sushi form, I did not prefer the fried preparation of Aji-Fry.  I thought the panko breading was too heavy and overpowered the delicate fish.

To go with our food we ordered another round of drinks.  I chose a favorite glass of white wine - Gruner Veltliner, while Keith tried the Rickey-san made with Hendricks gin, matcha green tea soda, yuzu, and lime.  This spin of the famous DC drink was very refreshing and much better than the first cocktail I had.  Overall, we had a fulfilling dinner at Daikaya.  Though prices are bit high, the shared small plates concept is perfect for couples and groups.  I still want to come back to Daikaya to check out the ramen shop downstairs.

Image via Daikaya website
February 2015: We finally returned to check out the ramen shop downstairs.  We had attempted last year, but the place is always packed with super long wait times.  Finally, on this 20-degree day, we were in the area and thought we could get in for an early dinner.  Sure enough, we did and were seated towards the back on the low stools. Yes! I was so looking forward to a hot bowl of ramen to warm by belly.

The menu features imported Sapporo noodles in an authentic Chintan stock of chicken, pork and beef to give a complex and flavorful broth.  Keith ordered the Spicy Miso Ramen topped with roast pork, bean sprouts, onions, garlic, ground pork, nori, and scallions.  The broth was not that spicy, but had intense umami from the pork and miso.  He thought it tasted like "pork lo mein in soup form" and was delicious.   

Since the Chintan stock has beef in it, I opted for the Vegetable Ramen made with a vegan-friendly broth using 100% pure vegetable stock.  Topped with brussels sprouts, bean sprouts, snow peas, carrots, onions, wood ear mushrooms, and braised shiitake mushrooms - this bowl had an incredible aroma and left me feeling like I inhaled so much vitamins to help ward off any sign of sickness in this winter weather.  The noodles were firm, and overall we really enjoyed our ramen.

The price is a bit high compared to other places, and the broth definitely different, but just as delicious.  If you can stand the wait, then it's worth a try.

Total Rating: 3.33
Food:3.5, Price: 2.5, Service: 3, Ambience: 3.5, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Sautéed Edamame
with garlic, extra virgin olive olive, chili, lemon

Grilled Avocado
with ponzu, wasabi, nori salt

with lemon and thyme

Tuna Poke
with seaweed and pine nuts

Chicken Thigh
with housemade yakitori sauce

panko-fried Japanese horse mackerel with tonkatsu sauce

Chicken Karaage
with chili-Kewpie sauce

rice ball stuffed with soy and seaweed

Chocolate Ice Cream
with miso-banana caramel sauce and banana chips


Vegetable Ramen
100% vegan broth topped with brussels sprouts, bean sprouts, snow peas, carrots,
onions, wood ear mushrooms, braised shiitake mushrooms

Plus Keith ate:
Fried Garlic
with kimchi-miso sauce and pickled garlic

Mesclun Salad
with carrot-ginger dressing

Japanese-style wagyu beef hamburger steak
with red wine Worcestershire sauce
topped with a fried egg

rice ball stuffed with pork and sweet miso


Spicy Miso Ramen
topped with roast pork, bean sprouts, onions, garlic, ground pork, nori, scallions

Daikaya on Urbanspoon

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