When he announced his plan to open an authentic ramen restaurant in January, all Daisuke Utagawa, the co-owner of Sushiko , had was a location: 705 Sixth St. NW.
A name followed two months later: Daikaya, which translates into English as “house of big cooking pots.”
Now, Utagawa and business partner Yama Jewayni are adding a chef (and co-equal) to the project, and his name will be familiar to serious restaurant-goers. Katsuya Fukushima is an alumnus of Jose Andres’s ThinkFoodGroup, Cashion’s Eat Place , Vidalia and other establishments.
“I like his passion for food,” says Utagawa, who got to observe that sensibility up close when he, Jewayni and Fukushima ate their way through eateries in Sapporo, Hokkaido and Tokyo for research. Plus, “He’s Japanese, getting back to his roots.”
Fukushima, 41, spent the first five years of his life in Japan, where he was born in Okinawa, before moving to Hawaii, where his father served in the military. Ramen, he recalls, was “one of my dad’s favorite things to eat.”
Two restaurants under one roof, Daikaya is scheduled to open behind the Verizon Center in February; construction is expected to begin this month.
Ramen will be served on the first floor, in a space for about 40 diners. Upstairs will be a 75-seat izakaya, or tavern, offering “comfort food” to accompany sake and other drinks. Contrary to reports, says Utagawa, there will be “no sushi at all.” But there will be tonkatsu, a fried pork cutlet made special with fluffy shredded cabbage and bread crumbs ground in different sizes. “It brings an intensity to the palate,” says the chef of the coating.
Impressed by what he experienced on his food tour to ramen shops in Japan, Fukushima says he may use aged noodles and toppings as eclectic as mozzarella and basil. “I want him to play with” the concept, says Utagawa. “We are in America.”
Since he left ThinkFoodGroup a year ago, the chef has kept busy teaching, consulting, traveling and pitching in to help friends. During the launch of Rogue 24 last month, Fukushima could be seen working in the open kitchen alongside chef R.J. Cooper.
Daikaya’s new hire has come a long way from his first cooking gig, which the newcomer to Facebook inadvertently listed prominently on his home page recently.
“Works at Wendy’s,” begins his profile.