I’ve been hearing a ton of buzz about Daikaya lately, so I couldn’t wait to check it out. The restaurant consists of two floors with different concepts.The bottom floor is a ramen bar, which is always packed because there are so few tables. The second floor is called Izakaya, which is a type of Japanese bar that also serves food.
I made at reservation for the second floor because the ramen bar doesn’t take reservations, and I didn’t want to take any chances and miss out on the Daikaya experience. Daikaya is discretely wedged in between Graffiato and a Chinatown townhouse. The facade is impressive, but doesn’t have any large signs displaying the restaurant’s name, making it tricky to find if you don’t know what to look for. The two floors have separate entrances: the ramen bar door is on the right, and the door to Izakaya is on the left.
Izakaya serves Japanese small plates for dinner. The decor of the restaurant is really cool and modern, with Japanese influences. The centerpiece of the dining floor is the bar, which looks like a glowing temple of liquor. Other highlights include funky chandeliers, rope-canopied booths, and cutesy fabrics collaged on the walls that remind me of my middle school scrapbooking days.
I was overwhelmed by the menu, so I let my boyfriend order for us. Either he did an excellent job, or everything at Daikaya is amazing!
We ordered three dishes from the Green Things section, two skewers, a soup and some rice. The waitress brought everything out as it was ready.
The meal started off with the chilled cucumber with rayu vinaigrette, crispy garlic, ground sesame and chili thread ($6). The dish looked like a scary caterpillar, but tasted crazy good. You could taste the garlic on every cucumber slice, and the chili thread added a slightly spicy kick. It was hot but refreshing. The rayu vinaigrette was basically soy sauce to me… and everything definitely tastes better with soy sauce!
The grilled avocado with housemade ponzu, fresh wasabi and nori salt ($6.50) came next. It blew my mind. My boyfriend said it tasted like a steak, and I’d have to agree. The avocado was smoky and felt much more substantive than a vegetable. The ponzu (a citrus-based sauce) was poured into the crater where the pit was. Wasabi was placed on the long end of the avocado. It tasted great with some lemon juice and rolled around in the nori (seaweed) salt. Daikaya knows how to transform its avocados from a hip vegetable, to something so substantive that vegetarians would think they were cheating on their diets.
Next came the beef tenderloin skewer ($5) and the chicken thigh skewer ($2.50). The beef tenderloin skewer was good, but not what I was expecting because it was relatively plain and boring compared to the other amazing and unique dishes we’d gotten thus far. The chicken skewer was juicy and fatty (which I like), but it was still pretty lame compared to the rest.
My boyfriend got the clam and red bean miso soup ($6), which was a special that night. All of the proceeds from this dish and another special went to help the typhoon victims in the Philippines. I’m not a clam fan, so I tried the broth, and it was probably the best miso soup I’ve ever had. The red beans made the soup sweet, which was delicious!
Next came the onigri abura-miso ($3), a rice ball filled with a pork and sweet miso filling and served on crispy seaweed. We were told the rice dishes tend to get served at the end of the meal at Daikaya, because they are filling. According to the waitress, the best method for eating the rice is to wrap it up in the seaweed. This was rice unlike I’ve ever had it before. It was soooo good! The pork filling was delicious and sweet. The seaweed gave the rice ball and crunch.
The rice was supposed to be our last dish, but I was craving more, so I ordered the fried pee wee potatoes ($6.50). The potatoes were small and perfectly cooked. Their skins were crispy, and the insides were soft. The potatoes were sauteed in butter and served with fish eggs, chives and soy sauce. They were great.
Daikaya Izakaya definitely did not disappoint. Pretty much every dish was incredible and unique. I left feeling wishing I had had more because it was so good, and most of it was pretty light. I would have ordered more dishes was I not worried about the bill and the movie I had to see next door at Gallery Place. I highly recommend Daikaya Izakaya for a cool and tasty experience. I’m definitely coming back to try the ramen bar!