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Kitakata Ramen was just as advertised. A definite hit, but after waiting in a very long line.

Ramen fans, if you didn’t get out to Torrance yesterday, you can still get out today, but start early. You might have to skip church or go to a late service (if you’re Christian) because the wait in lines on Saturday were long, even if you got there when the festival opened at 10 a.m. The first Los Angeles Ramen Yokocho Fest has sure attracted fans, perhaps many in hopes of tasting not one, but two (actually four) variations of the very hot foodie trend–the ramen burger.

Just two weeks ago on a certain Saturday, Torrance’s Mitsuwa had people lined up down the block for one of the 500 ramen burgers produced as a special one-day only offering. My sources tell me that the wait was three hours. Really! Do you have three hours to wait for a burger?

At the Torrance Cultural Arts Center (3330 Civic Center Drive) in Torrance 90503, two restaurants have brought ramen burgers: Jidaiya who claims to have the original recipe and Ikemen. The lines for each are long. The Ramen Yokocho is all about lines.

First you wait in a line to get in. The entry is free; the food is not. You have to buy food tickets. That’s the next line. One person was told the tickets were good only for that day. Another was told that you could use them on Sunday. There’s a little confusion going on to say the least.

You had separate tickets for ramen ($8) and soda or water (bring your own) and ice cream ($3). There is also shave ice, but why would you go to a ramen festival to buy shave ice? Especially when Torrance also has Get Shaved?! The tickets are non-refundable–even if the people aren’t there.

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Local Hayatemaru had a short line, but was a definite winner. They brought styrofoam cups which worked better than the thin plastic bowls that became too hot to hold.

Get in line for the tickets and send a friend to the longest line which is likely to be Kitakata Ramen Bannai. This shop was the most organized and gave you the best deal. The pork slices were tender and the noodles wonderfully springy. The bamboo shoots were not canned. They were firm and crispy. We wish there had been a hard-boiled egg, but that’s just wishful thinking. You might find this ramen salty, but that’s also part of the preparation of the pork.  The Kitakata line has someone with a sign marking the end. Other shops soon followed suit, but not soon enough.

Another short line was for the Torrance-based Hayatemaru which served a seafood ramen that came with two complete shellfish swimming in a tonkotsu (creamy pork bone broth).  This was tasty and I’d definitely give them a visit outside of the festival.

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The shortest lines on Saturday were for the Los Angeles Hannosuke which served Edomae Tendon (that’s tempura donburi) and the Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle high-end nigiri sushi. The shortest line with the longest wait was the ice cream line. (the Irvine-based Maeda-en). The tent didn’t open until about 1 p.m. The ladies waiting there even went to ask for a refund, but were forced to wait and wait and wait.

I’m not a fan of beef burgers, so I went on the reviews of fellow line standers. The Jidaiya burger was hard to eat. It came with a small piece of pork, a dipping sauce and a lot of mayonnaise. I could see the mayo oozing out of the sides of the burger as the person standing in the Kitakata line next to me tried to take a bite.  DSC_0217

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Ikemen men preparing the ramen and grilling the hamburgers.

The line for the Ikemen was slow and Ikemen offered three different ramen burgers with a real beef patty. If you liked beef, this was the one I’d recommend. You could see them making the ramen patties and grilling the beef burgers. They had yellow tape to prevent people from going into unsafe areas, but with the crowds, children and people who just couldn’t leave their small dogs at home (pets are not permitted but you know how some small dog owners are), the scene looked like a disaster waiting to happen.

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Gomaichi from Honolulu may be the best in that city, but they weren’t so in Torrance this weekend.

A major disappointment that won no one over was the supposed “best of Honolulu” award-winning ramen shop. The lines were filled with people grumbling about Gomaichi. First, the photo shows something that you aren’t getting. You aren’t getting a bowl of wet soup. You’re getting a dry soup with what appears to be processed lunch-slice ham (and not the good stuff that you’d get at Whole Foods, Bristol Farms or some other high end place). There’s a few leaves of spinach and lettuce, but not even in the o-shitashi form. Ian believes that some odd disaster befell this place, but still there are so many saves that could have been better and inexpensive (like real o-shitashi and goma seeds). The ramen was good and springy with dried cheese. It was a wafu (Japanese-style) spaghetti made with ramen (which is classified as a Chinese noodle).

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Another small dog owner enters the hall of shame. No pets actually means no pets, even small dogs.

We arrived at 10:30 a.m. and left after 1 p.m. Ian might give it another try this morning, but go early. By 10:30 a.m. the parking lot was full and the lines were already long. People will line up for a ramen, but there needs to be better over all planning to keep the flow of this festival better. The Los Angeles Ramen Yokocho Fest is sponsored by the Ramen Yokocho Association, Japan Up!, Shirakiku, Morinaga, Maeda-en Ito En and China Times Printing, Inc.

There is also a display of the history of Weekly LALALA, a raffle drawing, and an art exhibition.

Los Angeles Ramen Yokocho Fest

  • Torrance Cultural Arts Center
  • 3330 Civic Center Drive
  • Torrance CA 90503
  • Admission is free.
  • Parking is free.
  • 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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