Thursday, October 3, 2013

Daikaya - 09/12/2013

705 6th St NW #1
Washington, D.C., DC 20001
(202) 589-1600

On any resume there are some names, like Goldman Sachs, that immediately open doors. When it comes to the culinary world, Katsuya Fukushima, a former chef de cuisine at minibar, should have been able to write his own ticket at any fine dining establishment. Like a good Asian, Fukushima initially pursued a degree in a math (and art) but eventually succumbed to his love for food. He hooked up with Jose Andrés early in his career and spent much of the next 14 years as part of the Think Food Group. When he found himself spending more and more time outside in an office instead of the kitchen, Fukushima knew it was time to move on. Despite being pursued heavily but it was Daisuke Utagawa the owner of Sushiko and his partner Yama Jewayni who finally piqued his interest with the idea of opening a traditional ramen shop in DC.

Gyoza - Pan Fried Dumpling with Pork and Cabbage Filling
These were probably the best gyoza I've had at a ramen shop, bigger than most, they had a perfect sear at the bottom and were chock full of juicy pork and cabbage. The flavor, texture, and size all reminded me of the ones my mom makes at home.

Shio Ramen - Butabara Kakuni
I typically use shio ramen as the yardstick by which to judge most ramen-ya and Daikaya's does pretty well. The noodles had the right amount of texture and give, the egg still had a soft boiled creamy yolk, and chashu showed a nice balance of fat and lean meat. While I did miss the creaminess of the tonkotsu style ramen I typically favor this Fukushima's Sapporo-style shio soup base still had plenty of flavor. The stir-fired sprouts and ground pork were a lovely addition, further augmenting the soup with a wok-fired savor. My companion found the pork belly a bit too fatty but I thought it was absolutely delicious with a springy almost snappy texture that reminded me of the special chashu at Santouka but with much more fat.

Shoyu Ramen - Butabara Kakuni
My co-worker opted for a shoyu ramen, the darker earthier stock had a lingering tinge of bitterness on the finish but otherwise was very similar to the salt based version.

Chef Fukushima might have moved on from avant-garde modernist cuisine, but he brought the precision and attention to detail he learned at minibar to his new venture.

My initial dinner dispensed with I had planned to make the trek to Izakaya Seki but given the rain I decided just to check out the izakaya upstairs instead. The izakaya has a very different feel from the ramen-ya with a hipster faux Asian urban feel with brooding orange-red mood lighting. The meal got off to a rocky start, I took a seat on the railing by the stairs but after being ignored for 15 minutes eventually made my way to the bar.

Sesame Street - Beniotome sesame shochu, Fever Tree ginger beer, yuzu, Angostura bitters
I made it upstairs just in time to catch the end of happy hour. The Sesame Street was a bit dainty but enjoyable. The fresh lively yuzu up front with the spicy tingle of the ginger beer on the finish.

Chicken Skin skewer
I made a point to try all the happy hour food first up was a chicken skin skewer. The skin was nicely cooked crispy on the outside with a fatty slightly gummy center.

Chicken Wing skewer
A fairly run-of-the-mill chicken wing, the meat was decently moist with a nice char that nicely complimented the sweet savor of the sauce but nothing really stood out.

Aji Fry - with chili and tonkatsu sauce
Aji is one of my favorite sushi fishes but I didn't really care for this at all. The crispness of the batter was nice but it was hard to appreciate the fish under all that crust.

Chicken Kara-age - with chili-kewpie dipping sauce
The kara-age itself was a bit small meaning the batter-to-meat ratio was a bit off rendering pieces a touch dry I did enjoy the savory twang of the dipping sauce but it was best used sparingly because the mayo could get a bit heavy.

Of Hearth And Home - Redemption Rye, Zucca, Cherry Heering, Bittermens 'Elemakule Tiki Bitters, star anise
This cocktail was more my speed than the Sesame street. The rye brings an overarching woodiness to the drink while the bitters and zucca convey lovely floral tones to balance the ripe fruit heft of the cherry. The star of the drink was the burnt anise, fragrant with a subtle smoky char.

Grilled Avocado - with housemade ponzu, fresh wasabi and nori salt
This was billed as the izakaya's most popular dish but for the life of me I can't figure out why. The first one I got tasted strongly of gas almost like it had been improperly blow torched. The kitchen sent out another which lacked the petrol-y flavor, but I still found the bitterness coupled with the natural flavor of the avocado rather unpleasant.

Beef Tongue - with "jalapeño-yuzu kosho"
For a meal that had a drastically inconsistent start, things really picked up with the final few courses. The thick cuts of tongue had a fantastic texture snappy and dense but still slick and lithe. The dab of chili sauce on top elevated the slightly sweet sauce with a sharp fiery kick.

Grilled Rappahannock Oyster - with sake and housemade oyster salt
For some reason I'm more particular about my cooked oysters, but this one hit the spot. Dense and meaty with a slight twinge of boozy verve and a lovely smoky depth to compliment the oyster's salinity.

Wasabi Tako - raw marinated octopus with granny smith apple, celery, California arbequina olive oil and wasabi sprouts
The raw octopus had a profoundly dense and deeply satisfying texture. The fresh wasabi has a fair amount of bite though it is somewhat softened by the sweetness of the green apple. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish though it is one of the more challenging dishes the restaurant offers.

The Spirit of Compromise - Campari, Cocchi Americano, Green Chartreuse, Gin
I ended the night with a round of dealer's choice. Dubbed "The Spirit of Compromise" the drink had plenty of expressive herbaceous aromatics thanks to the mix of campari, chartreuse, and gin.

I'm a bit torn on how to feel about Daikaya's izakaya. Perhaps it was because Fukushima was busy downstairs, but the food didn't live up to my expectations. The chicken which should be the cornerstone of any izakaya was solid but not particularly inspiring and when it came to the other dishes I only enjoyed about half of them. To Daikaya's credit, its cocktail program is probably the best I've seen at an izakaya and with few direct competitors in the DC area I think the restaurant will be packed pretty regularly.


Anonymous said...

Goldman Sachs? Say it aint so Tangbro!

Ipse Dixit said...

Those cocktails don't go with that food. Your impression is marred by this. I'm not saying it would have better if you had been smarter about the booze parings, but it would have been different.

Epicuryan said...

Lol im just saying GS has a cachet to it. Same could be said for Google or McKinsey.

The cocktails certainly weren't ideal but that wouldn't have impacted the dry texture on the kara age and the later courses were still enjoyable despite the cocktails.