We scoured the county, sampling hundreds of restaurants to come up with our list of the 101 best cheap eats that appeared in the May issue. But in an area so vast, it was inevitable that a few keepers like Daikokuya would slip through the net. So here’s my take:
My family and I found ourselves waiting on the sidewalk for almost an hour to get into the Little Tokyo restaurant, a narrow corridor of a space on 1st Street. Any skepticism about the place evaporated one we started slurping our way through bowls of the house ramen. The slices of black pork belly practically dissolve the moment you pop them into your mouth, and the noodles are firm but yielding enough to please purists. What sets the dish apart, though, is the broth, made with pork bones that simmer overnight (as the restaurant’s literature will tell you). Spiked with a boiled egg (marinated long hours, too) and cloudy like miso soup, it gives you a big, warm embrace. It’s filling, too, or else we would have tried something else on the menu. The well-worn downtown branch has an earthy appeal, but Daikokuya has outposts in Monterey Park and Costa Mesa, too, with a Hacienda Heights location in the works.
327 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213-626-1680)