Eater predicted craziness for Daikaya's opening yesterday, and sure enough, anyone who passed by 705 6th Street last night would have to notice a long queue streaming out of the restaurant. "We were actually quite startled to see a line form," said Daikaya partner Daisuke Utagawa, who spoke with Eater via telephone today. "We were joking around that it was sort of like the opening of the Star Trek movie."
Ramen fans started lining up at 5 p.m. to get a first taste of Daikaya's noodles, and till 9 p.m., the wait to get in was about an hour. Daikaya employees took the names of diners in the queue and then sent them a text when their table was ready. "Everybody we texted came back. It's incredible," said Utagawa. The restaurant served over 200 customers for their first night.
And who were these intrepid diners? Some groups, some solo diners, and of course, a lot of couples for Valentine's Day. "It was much more communal than ramen shops in Japan," Utagawa said, noting that diners swapped ramen stories, and that a few couples didn't even mind sharing a booth with another couple to help with wait times.
Although the chefs were exhausted from putting in 16-hour days leading up to the first service, Utagawa said he couldn't imagine a better opening night. "It's an amazing feeling. We're selling $11 bowl of noodles and people have that look of satisfaction on their face," he said.
Next up: a ramen lunch service will open up in a few weeks, and then the upstairs izakaya will open in approximately a month to a month and a half, after construction is complete.
In the meantime, Utagawa is working on immersing the waitstaff in ramen culture, so they can guide American customers through two rules of ramen. One: don't wait for everyone at the table to be served before eating. Different types of ramen may have staggered arrival times at the table, so go ahead and eat ramen as soon as it arrives, when the noodles are at their best and before they get soggy. And two: don't be afraid to slurp the noodles. "To eat noodles properly, you have to slurp, otherwise you'll burn your mouth. Slurping is not only encouraged, it's a must," said Utagawa. So for now, Daikaya's staff will try to help DC diners get over a few cultural taboos so they can really dig into some ramen. —Adele Chapin
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[Photo: Daikaya/Daisuke Utagawa]