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Japanese Soul Food at Studio City’s Daichan

Posted By Karen Young On March 25, 2010 @ 11:27 pm In Cuisine,Dinner,Eat,Featured,Japanese,Lunch,My Daily Find,Restaurants,spotlight | 3 Comments

BY KAREN YOUNG

Located just east of Studio City’s “sushi row” is Daichan (pronounced day-chan) — a family owned Japanese restaurant unlike any other in Los Angeles, serving up what they call  Japanese “soul food.” Sure they offer a few of the traditional dishes we all know, but it’s a combination of the ambiance and the many other choices on its packed, eclectic menu that make this tiny eatery completely unique.

The interior of Daichan is kitschy and quirky. Photos by Karen Young

Daichan happens to be situated in a tiny strip mall a couple doors down from the inimitable and legendary Sushi Nozawa — and fittingly so. Each restaurant stands apart for the fare they serve.

Daichan itself is probably unlike any place you’ve been before. Quirky and kitsch are the words that come to mind as you walk in the door. The walls and pedestal areas are completely covered with knick-knacks, drawings of menu items, fans, statues, fountains, lamps, pictures, and paintings. It’s basically a hodge-podge of Asian “stuff” — art and artifacts —and that’s the charm of the place.

Poki Bowl with seared albacore

Menu selections are as diverse as they come. This is not a teriyaki/tempura joint, although they do serve both quite well. There are a slew of appetizers, including sesame spinach, eggplant miso with sweet sesame sauce, stuffed lotus root (chicken and vegetable deep fried with a sweet, ginger sauce) stuffed pumpkin (the same as lotus with a sweet ginger sauce), gyoza (steamed and pan-fried), and fired seaweed tofu. The different types of sweet sauces, which have a slightly spicy edge,  give these dishes a deliciously distinct flavor.

Although sushi and sashimi are offered,  try what you can’t get at any other Japanese restaurant.

Soba noodles

For main entrée choices, the Poki Bowls are very popular and can satisfy your sashimi fix — it’s a sensational mix of flavors — just wish there was a little more fish. There are variations filled with raw fish (or seared albacore), kobu and wakame seaweed, green onion, ginger and sesame oil mixed with a slightly spicy soy sauce served over rice and lettuce. Bean rice or brown rice are available, for a $1 more. A definite fave.

Eggplant miso with sweet sesame sauce.

There are a variety of hot and cold noodle dishes using udon, soba and ramen. Soba is accompanied by a special dipping sauce made with soy and green onions and served on traditional small trays with mats.  Or try the rice bowls  or soup rice variations of chicken, salmon, sushi, sukiyaki, tempura and more.

For a more substantial meal, there are seafood, chicken, beef and vegetarian plates that cross a few cultures, such as Portuguese Sausage and Eggs, Kalbi Beef with Kimchee, and Hawaiian Garlic Chicken. Seafood selections include Steamed Catfish, Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna, Yellowtail, Halibut and Seabass. The Seafood Soup or the Seafood Hot Pot are cold day comfort food. All plates are served with rice, a piece of watermelon, pasta salad, green beans, carrot and shredded cabbage. Soul food, it definitely is.

Tempura.

The dessert menu is limited with tempura ice cream, Dorayaki (and interesting Japanese Pancake sandwich with red bean and crushed chesnut),   a very moist steamed cheesecake and cream puffs. There is a small selection of teas apart from the usual black or green, including brown rice, persimmon, dokudami (herbal,medicinal) and Tochu-cha (herbal, caffeine free). In addition to soft drinks, Daichan serves Ramune, which is the Japanese version of 7-Up.

Not a spot is empty in this strip mall restaurant.

Depending on what you order, Daichan can be a inexpensive meal (especially if you go for a rice bowl) or you can be tempted to order a little bit of this and that and raise your bill — which is very tempting with a menu like Daichan’s.   The solution?  Visit often and work through the menu.

DAICHAN 11288 Ventura Blvd, Studio City (818) 980-8450. Appetizers $2-$8, Noodles $6.25-$15, Rice bowls $6-$13.50, Sashimi and Poki Bowls $11.50-$18.95,  Plates $7.50-$15.95, Sushi and Sashimi $7-$16.50, Desserts $2.50-$3.50, Tea $1-$1.50.  Closed on Sundays and major holidays. Parking available in the small lot and on street.

Karen Young is the Editor/Publisher of MY DAILY FIND.  Email her at karen@mydailyfind.com

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