On Valentine’s Day, Katsuya Fukushima and his team opened Daikaya’s ramen bar to lines around the block. With the success of H Street’s Toki Underground and the pedigree of Katsuya and owner Daisuke Utugawa (think Sushi-Ko), Daikaya has been one of the most anticipated restaurants to open here in a while. We couldn’t wait – the very next night, we were there.do

As luck would have it, we scored two seats at the bar that surrounds the open kitchen. Looking across the gigantic pots of steaming broth, we had a view of the chefs in action. There were five of them crammed into the tiny space (Chef Fukushima later explained that they were training two new chefs at the time and there are usually only three). With small, precise movements and tight choreography, they rapidly turned out bowl after bowl of four different kinds of noodle soup.

Check out the varieties and a little bit more about Daikaya after the jump.

If you’re a fan of Toki Underground and you show up at Daikaya expecting a similarly hearty bowl of porky broth, you’re in for a surprise.  But don’t worry – it’s a pleasant one.  There are four different kinds of ramen available at Daikaya, and all of them have lighter profiles than the main dish at Toki.

Like barbecue, ramen can be prepared in a range of styles that vary by country and, especially within Japan, by region.  The ramen at Toki Underground that gets the rave reviews is their Hakata-style classic.  It features a thick, pork-based broth that is as rich as it is salty.

At Daikaya, they’re serving up Sapporo-style ramen, and they’re upping the authenticity factor by importing their noodles directly from Sapporo.  Their four different preparations include: Shio (a pale, salty broth), Shoyu (a light broth made with soy sauce), Miso (a thicker broth using miso paste) and Vegan.  We were blown away by the vegan ramen – the light, clear flavor of the broth was satisfying without being heavy, and it really lent itself to additions of seaweed and boiled eggs.  It’s the kind of dish you could eat once a week and not feel guilty…even better, it’s the kind of ramen you’ll be able to enjoy when they open for lunch service without feeling like you need a nap afterwards!

We first met Chef Katsuya when he was part of Jose Andres’ team at Cafe Atlantico and minibar, though he has also worked at Cashion’s Eat Place and Vidalia.  We even sought out a “cooking with salt” class he conducted at L’Academie de Cuisine in which he presented some recipes we still turn to to this day.  It’s impressive to see the way he brings his experience with higher-end dining to the simpler (but some would say far less forgiving) ramen.  He has said that it’s all about balance, and if those early bowls of soup are any indication, Daikaya has found it.

Daikaya (currently only the ramen bar is open)
705 6th Street, NW
Washington, DC
Daikaya on Urbanspoon