Don’t you just love a surprise thunderstorm on a day with no rain forecasted? Yeah, me too. Torrential downpours, however, call for a drink and dinner with friends, so that’s what we did!
Daikaya is a popular spot in Chinatown, with a Ramen shop on the bottom floor and Daikaya Izakaya on the second floor. The ramen is drop in only (with a 20 ish minute waiting period) but the upstairs is an upscale-with-traditional-vibes restaurant.
The menu is a collection of small plates organized into different categories including Otsumami (Fun Bites), Aomono (Green Things), Sakana (Fish Things), Kushi (Skewers), Oniku (Meat Things), and Gohan To Men Rui (Rice and Noodles). The waitress suggested we order something from each section, so we did (and then some).
Ashley asked for a suggestion for a dry white, and she liked the glass that the waitress suggested for her. I had The Shiroi Hina, a drink made from El Dorado rum, St. Germaine lychee, and lime. I absolutely love lychee, and this drink had a strong flavor, which I absolutely loved. For 9$, the portion and quality was incredibly good, especially for the D.C. area.
Back to the food! For the starters, we chose the chilled cucumber and the fried garlic. We mostly chose the fried garlic because it sounded weird and intriguing, which it was. The bits of garlic formed a thick shell while being fried, which almost resembled the texture of a potato skin, but not quite, the garlic was mushy on the inside and served with some kimchee-miso paste and pickled garlic on top. Even though it was definitely odd to be eating straight up garlic, I found myself popping them into my mouth the entire time!
The chilled cucumber literally looked like a caterpillar, with the bits of chili thread on top of the petite Persian cucumber. It was served on a rayu vinaigrette with crispy garlic and ground sesame seed This was really a refreshing dish, a great palate cleanser in between the others.
Next we had the mini donburi. If you know me at all, or have read my previous posts, you know there’s a restaurant called Donburi in D.C. that I love. They serve traditional portions of this dish, rice with soy kewpie, a mayo-like sauce, fish roe, seaweed, and green onions. The rice is warm and tasted so good with the cool green onions on top. I ate almost all of this dish, it’s just so comforting!
Then came the grilled octopus, served on a potato purée with pimenton and olive oil. I expected the octopus to be more juicy and marinated with some flavor, but it was a little bland and tough unfortunately. It did pair well with the potatoes and the toppings but was the least impressive of all the dishes.
Last we had the Cacio e Pepe Udon, a Japanese take on the traditional Italian dish. I loved this, the noodles were really big and thick, and the pecorino sauce was creamy and cheesy. I should have realized the buttery profile didn’t match the rest of the meal, but it was really good so that doesn’t matter.
One of the best things about Izakaya is the price. Even though the plates are small, none of the dishes are over 10$. We ordered five plates and two drinks, and it was 27$ (pre-tax) between the two of us, which is really good for a small plates style joint. I appreciate that the dishes were priced (more) appropriately for the size than numerous other restaurants I’ve eaten at.
I had a wonderful experience at Izakaya. The food was creative and the staff clearly cared about the food experience threat customers had. The dishes were beautifully presented and delicious. A few of the dishes could have used a little more spice or flavor, but the service and the drinks made up for it. Try the ramen downstairs, and then try the small plates right above!
The Bottom Line
Fantastic ambiance and extensive options for a small plates experience!
Cone Rating: 4.5 Cones
Location: Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Price: $$($) (Depends on what you get! Around 15 per person w/o drinks)