Hey friends, Joan here!
After an awesome morning surf session with my friend Lisa, we embarked on a journey to the very first Ramen Yokocho Festival at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. I purposely didn’t eat at all that morning because I wanted to eat as much ramen as I could! It was tough downsizing the amount of photos I took, but I hope it will give you an idea of what the festival was like! I’ll describe each ramen at the end of the post.
We went on Saturday, the first day of the event and arrived around 1 pm. I thought parking was going to be tough but we managed to get a spot right in front of the main entrance. (I have good parkma they say…) We noticed there was a really long line winding around the large parking area… but we managed to bypass the lines without a problem… or so we thought!
The line to buy ramen tickets was not that bad when we joined the line, but that was when everyone and their cousins and their friend’s friends showed up! We got lucky… or so we thought again….
We were about 10 people or so behind the ticket booth when they decided to stop admission! It was over capacity and they would not let anyone in for the next hour! I was so hungry! And when Joan is hungry, Joan gets ANGRY!
There were 12 ramen vendors at the festival, and tickets were $8 per ramen. I bought 3 and Lisa bought 2, and we each bought a water bottle ticket for $1 each. I wasn’t going to buy beer tickets, but it turned out we could buy beer inside without the tickets for $5.
The original plan was to try ramen that we have never had before, but I was so hungry and angry and every booth I wanted to try had too long of a line! Ramen Hayatemaru didn’t have much of a line so we got our first bowl there. I’d been to Hayatemaru before and thought they had descent ramen. Their booth was serving their Shrimp Flavored Pork Ramen for the festival, which I haven’t tried at the restaurant.
With all the ramen frenzy, waiting under the sun, and just too many damn people, it was nice to see some friends at the festival! We did a lot of tag teaming, which I would recommend if this festival returns next year. While one person waited in the longest line, the other would wait in a fast moving line, and come back to share with everyone! None of us really had a ramen dish to ourselves, we just shared everything.
I figured the best way for me to critique the ramen is by ranking them, based on what we thought was the most memorable and our overall personal tastes. We had ramen from 7 of the 12 booths. Yes, we suffered from food coma that day. So here it goes!
7. Silverlake Ramen’s Tonkotsu Spicy Ramen: The ramen here was just satisfying. It didn’t really stand out to me, just because I had already tasted another spicy ramen before this one. But the broth itself had a light creamy quality and tanginess, which was nice. It was a good balance between spiciness and tonkotsu flavor.
6. Shalala’s Miso Ramen: I really would have liked this ramen more if I had picked out the bamboo. You know me and bamboo! But for some reason I didn’t, and ended up mixing the bamboo around the broth, which overpowered the miso flavor! Ugh. But from what I could make of it, the miso flavor was quite good, and the broth was rich and creamy. I also really liked the thick yet tender slice of chashu, and the thick noodles that came with it.
5. Hayatemaru’s Shrimp Flavored Pork Ramen: This restaurant is known for their shio (salt) broth, which I’m not really a fan of because… well, it’s too salty for me! Sounds stupid, I know. But overall, the broth did have a good flavor, a fair balance of pork and shrimp flavor. It didn’t have that fishy quality I had expected. I’m so asian that I ate the shrimp with the shell on. The shrimp was cooked just right, that the shell was very soft. I liked the ground pork bits that came with it and the noodles were perfectly cooked.
4. Gomaichi’s Cold Noodle: This ramen hit the spot after waiting under the sun for hours. It was exactly the name, a cold noodle dish. It had lettuce, ham slices, some pepper flakes and parmesan cheese. I was surprised by the idea of cheese in ramen, but it was actually very good! The noodles had a sweeter flavor to it and the cheese seemed to give it the balance it needed. It was like eating a ham sandwich but with noodles instead!
3. Kitakata Ramen Bannai’s Curly Noodle and Tender Charshu: The ramen here was pretty amazing. The booth came all the way from Japan, and I have to say, it was very unique amongst any ramen I have had in a while! The broth was light and the tonkotsu flavor was delicate. It was so refreshing, that you’d want to just have a glass of it to drink! Well, not really, but that’s the best way I can describe it. The hand curled noodles were a little too soft for my liking but the chashu slices were so good! They were very tender and it had a tasty bbq marinade. I can’t think of a place out here in Cali that has ramen similar to this!
2. Jidaiya’s Ramen Burger: Although we didn’t get to try Ikemen’s burger (because I was not about to wait 3 hours for one), we felt that Jidaiya’s burger was pretty good! It had all the typical burger ingredients; lettuce, tomato, ketchup/mayo sauce (I think?) but with chashu slices instead of a beef patty, and bamboo. Eck. The noodle bun was pretty awesome, I really didn’t expect to like it in that form. It was chewy yet it had a nice thin layer of crisp on the outside. It definitely tasted like a hamburger, but with the kind of textures you wouldn’t expect from one! I liked it a lot, and it seemed that everyone else did too.
1. Menya Iroha’s Toyama Black Mapo Ramen: This had to be number one! It was my personal favorite for sure. Despite how spicy the broth was, it was so addicting! Lisa and I could not stop sipping the broth and picking at the bits of ground pork left in the bottom of the bowl. Sean and Charisse also had this one and they couldn’t stop sipping the broth, especially Charisse, who I believe doesn’t eat a lot of spicy food! I loved the toppings; bok choy, ground pork, bean sprouts, but we picked the bamboo out. The broth was amazing! Spicy yet so rich in pork flavor with a hint of ginger. I think I would pay a visit at their restaurant in Gardena!
Despite how unorganized the event was and how small the venue turned out to be, we had a great time. I don’t think the event coordinators expected the event to have the turnout that it did, possibly over 5000 people the first day! There were definitely people that complained how they left because of the long lines, or they were disappointed for buying tickets and the ramen ran out. They also ran out of water by the time I tried to get some, but one of the staff was nice enough to give me some of the staff’s water. I’m just glad we ate as much as we did, and that my friends managed to get the ramen they bought tickets for.
Perhaps $8 was a bit steep for the amount of ramen you get. I also felt that they should have served smaller portions as well. Perhaps $4 for slightly smaller portions would be fair? If you’re going to a ramen festival, I would think you would want to try as many as you can, but still have room in your stomach! But the sharing we did worked well for us.
Phew, that was a long post! I hope you enjoyed the festival if you went, and maybe if it comes back next year, we’ll see you there!
Thanks for reading!
ps. Shout out to Lisa, for her beautiful hand modeling with the ramen bowls!
Here is the event flyer, in case you were curious what was there: