When Daikaya opened near Chinatown in 2013, real-deal ramen was a rarity in DC—let alone Sapporo-style, one of 32 regional varieties of the soup in Japan.
The snug shop pioneered a craze, proffering shio, shoyu, and mugi-miso bowls swimming with imported Nishiyama factory noodles and pork-spiked “spice bombs.” Lines for one of Daikaya’s 40-odd seats stretched around the block, and wait times could shoot up to two hours on busy weekends. Chef Katsuya Fukushima—who traded his Minibar tweezers to become a ramen chef serving 600 guests a night—even got a stamp of approval from his Japanese ramen mentor, who traveled halfway across the world for a taste of his disciple’s soup.
Now, nearly ten years and three ramen shops later (Haikan, Bantam King, Hatoba), the Daikaya team has served a whopping one million bowls. To celebrate, they’re hosting an online sweepstakes competition where a lucky winner—chosen at random—will win round-trip tickets for two to Sapporo, Japan (valid through December 31, 2023). The country just reopened for visa-free tourist travel this week, lifting its strict pandemic border controls. Also included in Daikaya’s prize: a private tour of Nishiyama Seimen Company, where Daikaya Group’s custom noodles are made, and a special ramen lunch. The fine print highlights: entrants must be 21+, live in the Washington region, and be available to claim their prize at Daikaya in November. Online sweepstakes entries close on Friday, October 28 (and are limited to one per person).
Though a few things have changed at Daikaya over the past decade, much has stayed the same. Take, for example, the ramen base—a kurobuta pork bone-rich broth that carries over from pot to the next, and that co-owner Daisuke Utagawa likens to a “mother” in the mole or baking world. Also: the group’s core mission.
“Our motivation has always been to serve democratic Japanese food,” says Utagawa. “In Japan, there’s a word called ‘Class B Gourmet.’ It doesn’t mean it’s a lesser quality or taste. It just means it’s a lot more affordable.”