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.
Fair 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.
Adam: Well, one of the factors. "If I moved there, I can have Daikokuya more often."
Rick: 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.
Adam: "Oooh! Good point, Adam!"
Rick: 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.
Adam: 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.
Rick: 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.
Adam: 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.
Rick: 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?
327 E 1st St, 213-626-1680
[Photos by Hagop Kalaidjian]