Once a year, the JFCA presents the Japanese Food & Sake Festival at the Hyatt Regency in Orange County. I normally wouldn't attend because it's held mid-week and trying to get from LA to OC during rush hour is worse than snorting instant ramen packets. But...according to an email I received last month, this year's attendance would become mandatory. No, it's not a performance by Amuro Namie (remember her?), but RAMEN!! What else did you think it was?
The first of two ramen booths within the festival was Chibakiya from Tokyo, prepared by Chef Kenji Chiba. You might remember them from last year's Legendary Ramen Fair or that "scary surprise" at the Umaimono Gourmet Fair held at Mitsuwa Market. Today, they would once again be showcasing their "classic" Shinasoba--a clean, refreshing broth made with both chicken and pork.
While waiting for our bowls to be ready, the delightful aroma from the soup immersed our senses. As I carelessly wiped the stream of drool from my chin, I had to fight the urge to just dive in.
The best ramen found in a styrofoam bowl! Remarkably fresh for being cooked in a hotel banquet hall, my soul just yearned for more. Although the soup was less kotteri than the last time, it's "sappari" feel was impressive. The toppings (chashu, naruto, kaiware sprouts, menma, nori, negi) were surprisingly fresh as well.
Sponsored by Sun Noodle, it was no surprise to learn that Chibakiya was using their factory-made noodles. But better than expected, these noodles did not disappoint.
Even the moist chashu mesmerized like its neighbor's swirl. I sure hope Chibakiya opens up a ramen-ya in Socal soon! I mean...what are they waiting for?
The second ramen booth was the instant 生 ramen maker Yamachan. Although I'm not a big fan of their nama ramen, it was nice to see the actual Yamachan cooking his noodles.
This is Yamachan. Can you see the resemblance?
Man, he looks so happy! See...ramen makes you happy. Everyone should eat ramen...daily!
Not the most impressive presentation, but we'll take it. Like I said, I'm not a big fan, but it still works to put a smile on your face.
Here's a little slide show of the rest of the event to give you an idea of what it was like. It was actually quite interesting and fun. I highly recommend that you try attending next year. I might even go regardless of ramen.
Much thanks to my ramen informant for the heads up! Good looking out! And props to Exile Kiss for joining me. I told you it wouldn't be that bad! Lastly, a shoutout to Foo-Foo Tei's Murakami-san (whom we ran into in front of the Sapporo booth).