Midnight Snack: Daikokuya with Adam Kurtz

Think there aren't any restaurants open late in L.A.? Residents who work late beg to differ. Musician Adam Kurtz took us to his favorite ramen joint in the city -- high praise in this noodle-obsessed town.

Photo by Hagop KalaidjianFair warning: If you want to be in a band, your nights aren't ending before midnight. Just goes with the territory. Such is the life of guitarist/bassist/singer/songwriter Adam Kurtz. His nights are spent either rehearsing or playing shows throughout LA and its environs with an ever-changing-and-expanding roster of bands: his own solo project (currently looking for a name; my suggestion of "Colonel and the Kurtzes" was quickly shot down); The Damselles and the TC-4, a 60s throwback doo-wop group; The Richie West Band, a country band that performs songs written by a member's deceased father; Kino Proby, a tribute to an 80s Russian rock group; and indie rockers Model K. After rehearsal, we went to Adam's favorite late-night ramen joint in Little Tokyo. Two pieces of information Adam forget to impart before we arrived: (1) It's cash only; and (2) Be prepared for a long wait. Oh, and: (3) You better like pork.

Rick: Is it always this busy?
Adam: I didn't think we'd have a 45-minute wait at 10 o'clock, but we do. I've waited two hours before. You don't come when you're in a rush. That's part of the deal. Usually, I go down the block to The Far Bar to have a beer.

Rick: Is it really worth the wait?
Adam: Oh, man. It is. It was one of the first restaurants I came to when I was visiting LA, and it became one of the motivating factors to move here.

Photo by Hagop KalaidjianRick: Really?
Adam: Well, one of the factors. "If I moved there, I can have Daikokuya more often."

Photo by Hagop KalaidjianRick: That went through your head?
Adam: It did. I'm not lying. It revolutionized the concept of ramen to me. My association with ramen was the, you know, 29-cent ramen packages. So when my friends said, "Hey, let's go get 12-dollar bowls of ramen," I said, "Fuck you ... and I'm not moving to LA." But this is extremely filling. Porky. Meaty. Just gluttony. You see soup and you think, "Oh, it's going to be a light dinner." This is not light. If you eat the whole thing, which I intend to do ... actually, I promised my sister I'd bring back some leftovers.

Rick: Does ramen travel well?
Adam: It reheats well. And it's good cold, too.

Rick: How exactly do you pronounce this place?
Adam: You can say Dai-co-cu-ya, but I've heard someone say Dai-co-qui-ya.

Rick: How many times have you been here?
Adam: A dozen? Fifteen? It's really my favorite restaurant. There are others I could say are my favorite. I know that favorite means "more preferred over any other," but you can have, like, a couple best friends.

Rick: I'm a traditionalist. I don't think you can.
Adam: Sure you can. Because best can mean you're number one best. But it also can mean, like, a Best Of album that has more than one song.
Rick: ...
Adam: "Oooh! Good point, Adam!"

Photo by Hagop KalaidjianRick: Any weirdness happen here late at night?
Adam: It's downtown, so there's always the weirdness of seeing a major city desolate at night. I'm comparing to New York.

Rick: That's a different beast altogether. But even in New York, the Wall Street section shuts down when it's not being occupied.
Adam: Boston doesn't shut down. New Orleans ...

Rick: Well, that's just a mess.
Adam: I went to San Diego a few weeks ago and it was packed as much as Vegas.

Rick: The Gaslamp District?
Adam: Yeah. I was surprised. When I think of San Diego, I think of it as a calm beach city.

Rick: My best trip to San Diego ended with an impromptu visit to Tijuana.
Adam: I've always wanted to check out Tijuana.

Photo by Hagop KalaidjianAdam: What they do here is, they have a secret recipe. They make the broth off-site and bring it here once a week.
Rick: That sounds like Soylent Green.
Adam: It is kind of like that now that you mention it.

Photo by Hagop KalaidjianRick: You ever bring a date here?
Adam: I did. I came here once with a girl I was dating who was a vegetarian and everything in here has pork in it. So that was stupid. It was not a successful evening.

Rick: What did she get?
Adam: There's a few things you can get. The lettuce, I guess. But everything else is pork-this, pork-that. Boiling pork to make a good broth. Shredded pork bowl. Pork rice. Like, even the rice has pork in it. Which is why this place is so awesome.

Photo by Hagop KalaidjianAdam: This is one of those places where if I know I'm going, I know not to eat a significant amount of time beforehand. I know I'm going to put an ungodly amount of pork broth in my belly. And look, there's a whole egg in there.
Rick: That's an egg?
Adam: A whole egg just in the pork broth.

Rick: How do you eat it?
Adam: There's really no right or wrong way. Just put the whole thing in your mouth. Oh, you lost your spoon in there. Man down, man down!
Rick: That's what you're supposed to do, right?
Adam: Yes. You're supposed to bury the spoon in your broth. Idiot.

Photo by Hagop KalaidjianRick: I don't know how much more I can eat.
Adam: At this point, you start questioning each bite. And then you have another 30 or 40 bites after that. Sometimes we go to Yogurtland afterwards.

Rick: How can you put anything else in your stomach after this?
Adam: Well, it's yogurt. It just melts around it.

Rick: LA is nice and empty during Thanksgiving weekend. I love it.
Adam: Because everyone's from other places.

Rick: It's the big downside to my going home for Christmas. I hate missing the week here when it's so easy to get around while everyone's gone.
Adam: I thought I wasn't going to go home for Christmas this year, and I wasn't super-pissed. The only reason I want to is because my Grandma's 91 years old and I want to see her. She probably won't live to see 191, so ...

Rick: My grandmother died last year at 99.
Adam: Wow. One year off from getting a card from the Queen.

Rick: Is that what happens?
Adam: Well, not in this country.
Rick: What happens here, RuPaul shows up?

Rick: I don't have enough cash for this actually.
Adam: That's why I told you earlier it was cash only, implying you could go to an ATM.

Rick: You said it earlier?
Adam: Yeah, outside.

Rick: That's not earlier. That's when I got here. That's already too late.
Adam: I'm sure there's an ATM within a half-hour walk from here.

Rick: I owe you a beer. Remind me.
Adam: [into tape recorder] You owe me a beer. Far Bar?
Rick: Sure.

Daikokuya
327 E 1st St, 213-626-1680

[Photos by Hagop Kalaidjian]

About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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I've been wanting to try Daikokuya since I started my Ramen explorations. Hope to go there soon enough!