Food Coma from the Ramen Yokocho Festival

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!

DSC_7564 Line to buy tickets

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….

DSC_7565 The ticket line grew within 10 minutes of us waiting!

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!

DSC_7566 Made it in after an hour of waiting!

DSC_7567 Yes sir, I will take your ramen ticket!

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.

DSC_7572 The ramen burger in the making behind the Ikemen booth

DSC_7574Chefs cooking up thousands of ramen bowls all day!

DSC_7575 The DJ had a really strange playlist of J-pop and movie soundtracks.
And guys with crazy ramen shirts!

DSC_7576 Our first stop

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.

DSC_7579 Shrimp Flavored Pork Ramen – Hayatemaru

DSC_7581 Cold Noodle – Gomaichi (from Hawaii)

DSC_7583 The cold noodle with ham, lettuce and parmesan CHEESE!

DSC_7584 Just what I needed after all that waiting…

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.

DSC_7588  3 hour line for the ramen burger at Ikemen. 10 points if you can spot Will!

DSC_7595 Angie and Lisa

DSC_7596 Lisa and I are bun twins

DSC_7602 Miso Ramen – Shalala (from San Jose)

DSC_7608 Ramen Burger – Jidaiya

IMG_7016Curly Noodle and Tender Charshu – Kitakata Ramen Bannai (from Japan)

DSC_7616 Too cool to be waiting in line at Menya Iroha

DSC_7623 BEFORE. Toyama Black Mapo Ramen – Menya Iroha

DSC_7624 AFTER. Their spicy broth was addicting!!

DSC_7625 Tonkotsu Spicy Ramen – Silverlake Ramen

DSC_7626 Sean and Charisse doing the Lady and the Tramp thing, but with RAMEN!

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!

Joan

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:

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It's not just the ramen, it's the run...
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7 Responses to Food Coma from the Ramen Yokocho Festival

  1. Kristina says:

    3 hour wait?? Good lord. I went alone but in the morning and I still had to wait an hour for Kitakata.

    I hope the organizers do some serious planning for next year–like having timed waves of buyers so the lines wouldn’t get so crazy, maybe getting more than one drink booth?? or having the drinks available at each ramen station (it makes no sense to have to line up at a booth for drinks anyways–all the stations should have them.)

    There might be another ramen festival in Orange County in about a month, as part of the bigger “LA Japan Fair.” Based off of previous Yelp reviews of this festival, I don’t have much high hopes, but the organizers on the Facebook page say there will be more Japan-based ramen shops selling their bowls.

    • Ramen Run says:

      Sweet, I’m gonna look into this fair and hopefully make that one! Thanks for letting me know! Yeah, I think I got kinda lucky that day since we manage to eat as much as we did! It was all team work. Hehe!

      • Kristina says:

        Definitely bring a team of friends. Mine were lameslices and didn’t want to wake up and drive to “far” Torrance on a Saturday morning. Sheesh. And I was already like, I’ll drive, whatever!

        I like your blog. Keep the pics coming!

      • Ramen Run says:

        Thank you so much! I really appreciate that! I will definitely keep the pics coming!

        By the way, I will travel far and wide for ramen! Hehe. I actually live more than an hour away from Torrance!

  2. Pingback: Haaayatemaru! ROUND 2! | Ramen Run

  3. lmjapan says:

    By the time I went (around 5 PM), they were all sold out and we didn’t get a thing! Thanks for posting this so I can see what it would have been like. I was especially curious about the ramen burgers. Must get there earlier next year.

    • Ramen Run says:

      I’m sorry to hear you couldn’t get any ramen! It was crazy packed and we got lucky when we showed up! We definitely plan to go next year! But thanks for checking out this post. We do what we can to cover the whole ramen eating experience! -Joan

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