It’s been a good year for Washington D.C.’s restaurant scene. I was getting a bit tired of my 14th Street mainstays and numerous trips to Graffiato, so I’m thrilled some new spots opened up. Personally, I’m loving Le Diplomate, Ghibellina, Izakaya Seki, Table, and Daikaya.
A few months ago, the gay-husband, Josh, insisted we have happy hour at Daikaya. The small plates are delicious, he proclaimed, and the prices affordable. Later, he excitedly announced to everyone who would listen that he was more hip on the restaurant scene than this Bitch. “Oh my GAWD,” he yelled “I can’t believe I discovered this place before YOU did.” I love this one.
Like a good boyfriend, he’s considerate of my fish and veggie tendencies when picking our date spots. And, I really enjoyed every small plate I tried at Daikaya, which boasts a menu of hot, cold, and grilled small plates that are authentically Japanese.
The menu includes items like sashimi, turkey wings, miso braised saba, omigiri, tuna poke, yamaimo, Japanese eggplant, and more. That day, I fell in love with Daikaya’s cucumber salad—a delicious chili-sesame-garlic concoction. Honestly, I never knew I, or anyone, could get so excited about cucumbers. But I did, and I’m still excited.
Later, I had dinner with a large group on a Friday night at Daikaya, and the meal was equally delicious—light and healthy yet satisfying and certainly unique. Moreover, Daikaya serves up a unique, adult version of the sake bomb, where the sake is sealed in a little gel ball, floating in a tumbler of beer, and the sake ball pops on your tongue as you drink it. I was startled. I was amazed. I was drunk.
Thus, although I knew I wouldn’t be sake-bombing, when I heard Daikaya was launching brunch, I knew I would soon be brunching. (By the way, this one was on-the-house).
The brunch menu at Daikaya is the restaurant’s own innovative take on brunch, as Japan doesn’t really do brunch, said the waiter. Um, duh. (Though, when I was in Tokyo my grandparents took me to Denny’s so they do have pancakes in Japan, technically). I took this “innovative take” to mean “We let the chef do whatever the hell he wanted.” Sounds good to me. Part of the dinner menu is also available.
I was brunching with my good friend Wygo, a nickname she received in Blondes vs. Brunettes. Wygo had Japanese green tea, served in a lovely little teapot, while I had coffee, served in a lovely little French press.
I also tried the Yamahai, because I had no idea what it was, and it sounded fun, which is usually how I make all my decisions. The Yamahai is a non-alcoholic beverage made with grapefruit, rice vinegar syrup, matcha green tea soda, and Thai basil. It arrived bright green and frothy and it certainly had a unique flavor. There are a slew of fun cocktails on the menu but today I wasn’t imbibing.
We began with two orders of the cucumber salad, because I pronounced immediately that I was not sharing. We also had the lox and oigiri, smoked salmon, salmon sashimi, pickled onion and crème cheese served with everything onigiri, i.e. a flavorful rice paddy sprinkled with sesame and other seeds. The rice was exciting, seriously. The fish was served in a fish dish (appreciate that cheekiness), and was extremely fresh, very high quality; and topped with a fluffy dollop of cream cheese.
We also ordered the poached egg and Chesapeake korokke, essentially a Japanese Benedict. The korokke is a fried ball, in this case filled with Chesapeake crab. There was a poached egg above an English muffin and the plate was drenched in a brown butter mayo and tonkatsu sauce, which was heavenly. The dish was extremely unhealthy and quickly devolved into a pile of creamy mush. But, it was really, really yummy.
The croissant was served with uni butter and a broken egg (read: scrambled eggs with a croissant). We actually ordered two of these dishes: the first, at the beginning of the meal, the eggs were very runny and the croissant was slightly burnt and hard. The second, the eggs were less runny, more scrambled—we initially assumed they were supposed to be served that way, but knew the croissant wasn’t supposed to be hard. The second croissant and egg dish was better and the whole ordeal was a bit confusing.
A low point of the brunch was the buratta salad, which I suppose is our fault for ordering an Italian dish at a Japanese restaurant. It was an Arugula salad topped with buratta, cherry tomatoes and a dashi gelee. The buratta was just OK, and the gelee weirded me out. But, the salad was very fresh.
The highlight of the meal was the French toast, which is soaked overnight in cream and soy milk and dusted with kinako. It was moist, rich and decadent with a hard, sugar-coated shell and topped with whipped cream. This was pure heaven, or as they say in Japanese, Tengoku. Bravo, Daikaya.
To close, we ordered the purin, a traditional Japanese dessert made with caramel ice, orange, purin espuma and burnt orange zest. It was essentially an orange-caramel-vanilla flavor mash-up of whipped cream, ice cream, and shaved ice, topped with orange zest. I typically shy away from fruit-based desserts, but this was really satisfying and refreshing. It was a highlight of the meal along with the cucumbers and the French toast.
The Bitches say: B+. Daikaya is definitely worth the trip for brunch—if for the French toast alone. We’d like a little more consistency in a couple dishes, but overall we loved it.
705 6th Street N.W. #1
Daikaya serves brunch on Sundays.