Izakaya Daikaya

Image: Grilled Mushrooms, Crispy Salmon, Raw Squid, Grilled Meat, Pickled Vegetables.

Last Updated: April 2023


Two spots serving Japanese cuisine go by the name Daikaya.  Downstairs is the ramen spot that launched a mini-empire.  Upstairs is the izakaya.  Neither serves sushi.  Fret not, there many dishes to pique your interest.  In the ten years since it opened, it has opened many diners’ minds to new flavors and ideas. It continues to be a reliable, fresh option, even if, like an old student militant, it has softened its edges as it ages.

The servings are small plates.  Some are only equivalent to two to three bites, like the skewers of mushrooms or chicken or the single lollipop lamb chop.  The pickled vegetables have been a constant and are a good way to start and good to snack on during the duration of the meal. A larger dish that was a favorite on the past visit was the slice of salmon cut with the edge of skin remaining length-wise, served over puree.  It was light, but the fat of the salmon and the crispiness of the skin added just enough complexity to make it something you kept circling back to.  To add a little ballast there are two potato dishes, one deep fried and one much-simpler of a sliced-open, baked Yukon with a slab of butter. Daikaya’s menu used to feature a section called, Unusual Dishes.  Post-Covid, the menu is less provocative, but it is still far from standard. 

A sizable bar in the middle of a large single room greets you when you arrive at the top of the stairs.  On the backside of the arena, it is a great choice for a drink and a snack.  The space was designed with subtle nods to Japanese pop culture.  In the early days, the menu was presented inside Japanese fashion magazines. 

From this first spot, the team would go on to establish a string of ramen spots (Bantam King, Haikan, Hatoba) and a Japanese-Italian spot Tonari in the old Graffiato space next door.  That team includes Daisuke Utagawa from the beloved Sushiko, and Katsuya Fukushima who came from the modernist mecca minibar.  As serious as the ramen spots are, and as fun as Tonari is, Daikaya always felt the most personal, where the team could pull from a traditional style and push ideas.  After ten years, we probably started to take Izakaya Daikaya for granted.  We shouldn’t.

Other Guidance:  Dress ranges from casual to date night.  GF and V can do alright.  The restaurant is located on the second floor with a flight of steps to get up.

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Cuisine: Japanese
Neighborhood: Chinatown/City Center
Address: 705 6th St NW, Washington DC
Website: http://www.daikaya.com/
Reservations: Opentable

Other Critics/Voices:

Washington Post: Tom’s original positive take from 2013.

Washingtonian: The restaurant group got a collective shout out in the 2023 Top 100. Kliman’s 2.5 star review from 2013.