Asian cuisine, especially Japanese, is all the rage in Washington, with Daikaya being one of the top go-to hotspots. Located right next door to another local favorite, Graffiato ), you’ll know you’ve found Daikaya when you spot the enormous steel screen with wavelike cutouts covering the facade. The restaurant is an upstairs/downstairs affair—two different places with two separate entrances—but both offering authentic Japanese specialties. Downstairs is the ramen noodle house, a 40-seat, sparsely decorated joint that lets you concentrate on slurping up one of four broths, meat-based or vegetable, filled with aged wheat noodles and topped with a bouquet of briefly stir-fried garnishes. On the second floor, which you reach via an outside staircase to the left of the ramen house, is the larger izakaya, or Japanese tavern. This dimly lit bar and grill’s decorative woodwork and Japanese fabrics lend an exotic feel, which tastes from the menu only amplify. You might try grilled avocado with fresh wasabi, crab croquettes, miso cod with pickled carrot, monk fish liver, and finally everyone’s favorite, the seaweed-covered rice balls, whose center holds a kind of sticky rice stew. Both upstairs and downstairs are always crowded, always noisy, always a thrill.