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Ramen Festival 2014

Ramen Festival 2014

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I’m so grateful I was invited to attend the second annual Ramen Festival yesterday at the Santa Anita Race Track. If you followed what happened at last year’s event, then you know that the event was such a success that it was  a disaster. More than 20,000 people showed up the tiny Torrance venue last time, leaving the staff and vendors unprepared like chickens with their heads cut off.

IMG_3613This year, the Ramen Yokocho Festival took a page out of the 626 Night Market Playbook and booked the Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, which was a much better venue. Fourteen ramen vendors from Japan, Las Vegas, San Diego, San Jose, and Los Angeles showed up to participate for the two day festival. I arrived at 10 a.m. and lines were already forming to be let in. The festival didn’t start until 11. Ramen is a religion, I tell you!

IMG_3615Once you made it through the park, you had to find the ramen ticket line to purchase tickets.

$4 Parking Fee

$8 X ? bowls of ramen you have.

$2+ for drinks

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IMG_3655I had my hashi was clearly ready to eat! Next time around, I'm ready to bring a ramen bib. Slurping can be a messy business.

IMG_3630Boy was I spoiled. The first ramen I tried set such a high bar that every bowl after failed in comparison. Tatsunoya from Japan offered melt-in-your-mouth chashu (BBQ pork) and tonkotsu broth aka pork bone broth that has been boiled and simmered for 2o+ hours.

IMG_3632Lookie who I found? Amy from @backyardbite food blogging. Food blogging is seriously a hard job. You don't get to really enjoy your food until you're done taking a gazillion pictures from every single imaginable angle, videoing, and instagraming.

IMG_3633Amy was clearly excited to dig into her ramen!

IMG_3650Found good friend Jay from JayEats gulping down on some ramen as well! DSC02750And of course I dug in. Delicious!  Thanks Chef Jay for the candid photo!

IMG_3653Another favorite was hometown favorite Tsujita. This Tsujita hailed from Tokyo though!

IMG_3658Men-Oh's Ramen was a rich and creamy. Also located in Los Angeles for all you L.A. natives.

IMG_3661Hiromaru from Las Vegas had too much of a rich flavor for my taste. I felt like there was a garlic overload. 

IMG_3663As the day went on, more and more people joined in. Lines were intense. 

IMG_3666One of the reasons I really loved the venue this time was that the space allowed for many culture events as well. There were tea ceremony demonstrations and traditional Japanese dancing. I saw so many gorgeous kimonos. 

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IMG_3671After taking a brief break, we ventured back to the ramen side of the park. 

IMG_3677This was definitely one of the most interesting ramens I've tasted. Mattou Seiman from Japan did a Mapo Szechuan Spicy Miso fusion. It wasn't spicy, rather the flavor was what made it mala. Mala is a Chinese term that denotes a spicy, yet numbing flavor. The 'spicniess' isn't so much spicy as it is just a quick tang.

IMG_3680San Jose's Shalala did a chicken and tonkotsu soup. It was a decent ramen. Interesting that they decided used chicken.

IMG_3684Monta Ramen from Las Vegas had  tonkotsu soup with chicken and veggie stock. Pretty on point.

IMG_3686Taijima from San Diego was the last one for me at the Ramen Festival. Tonkotsu Miso Ramen. I'll always have a soft spot for Taijima since I lived in San Diego for two years and would frequent there once a week. For me, their ramen just brings back old memories.

Thoughts: I purposely tried to avoid certain vendors that weren’t worth the wait. Hakata Shin Sen-gumi is a favorite of mine, but since I go there all the time, I didn’t want to waste my time. I also skipped Daikokuya on purpose because simply put, I don’t like them. Sorry.

Overall, I thought the Ramen Festival venue was great. I think there could be improvement for next event. Communication could definitely be better between the staff. The drink vendors also ran out of water, so we were getting dehydrated and drinking beer instead.

A big thank you for the hospitality from some of the Ramen Yokocho staff and the for the invite! Big thumbs up to Tatsunoya for making a damn good bowl of ramen! See ya'll next time!

Later that night...

IMG_3698I got more ramen. I don't know how it happened. So I guess I ended up having Shin Sen Gumi anyway.

Japanese Food So Good, You'll Need To Wipe Up Your Drool!

Japanese Food So Good, You'll Need To Wipe Up Your Drool!

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