Yes, we know about the old standards and the new, the austere Tokyo-based chain with branches in local Japanese supermarkets, and the impeccably credentialed noodle czars. We like the options at Shin Sen Gumi, where you can dictate the firmness of your noodles and the pungency of your broth, and may insist upon second helpings at a nominal fee. We like to watch college kids blow out their stomach linings attempting to finish bowls of nuclear-spicy noodles at Orochon. We are even fond of the creaky Little Tokyo diner where we learned to eat ramen far too many years ago, even if the broth is dosed with enough MSG to cause heart palpitations in a moose. We’ve heard all the arguments about authenticity, and we’ve seen Tampopo too many times to count. But ramen, a noodle soup borrowed wholesale from the Chinese, is no more a traditional Japanese food than curry rice, California rolls or spaghetti doughnuts. And when the yen for ramen strikes, you’ll usually find us at Daikokuya, a cheerfully fake ’50s-style Little Tokyo noodle shop where the broth is made from carefully simmered kurobuta pork bones, the noodles have both snap and vigor, and the condiment jars on each table are filled with pure, minced garlic. The connoisseurs with sliced daikon between their ears will try to tell you that affection for Daikokuya is a character defect, but that just means the line is that much shorter after an opera at the nearby Music Center.
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327 E. First St., downtown, (213) 626-1680.