It was a gray, rainy, miserable day, but people still lined up around the block to get into the Tokyo Ramen Show. The ramen otaku were out in full force with their impressive cameras, polished ramen spoons hanging from a chain around their necks, their "No Ramen, No Life" t-shirts straining over their large bellies... It was a sight to move the soul and bring one to tears.
Behold the hordes of ramen faithful:
How to: When you arrive at the park, you should line up to buy tickets for ramen (as many tickets as the bowls you want to eat). My friend and I thought that the ticket for one bowl of ramen was just a bonus of the entry fee, but it turns out you needed a ticket each time you went up to a ramen stand. We learned that only after we had waited in line, got to the front, and then were denied heavenly noodles because we were offering cash only. We know better for next year!
Another thing that brought me to tears (besides the careful taste testing and photographing of our future ramen otaku overlords) was how woefully unprepared or under-stocked some of the competitors were this year. Knowing full well that the competition doesn't end until Sunday, why were some competitors completely sold out of toppings or ramen itself by 1 in the afternoon? The show didn't end until 8, so I was surprised they didn't last longer. Weak men giving in early was how it looked. Vay, vay disappointed. Luckily, some of the competitors were true professionals and either brought enough supplies to last well into next week or else just had the foresight to ration their supplies each day. I got the best and the worst coming up!
潤×東横×なおじ～新潟麺魂伝承会～ with their ramen creation "Neo-ginger chashuu ramen"
I had read about this ramen on other blogs and on the official website, so I was excited to try it. I enjoyed watching the owner of Naoji tossing noodles in his signature hat! That man has been wearing the exact same style of hat (in two colours) for YEARS. I hope he gets them dry cleaned....
The ramen was EXACTLY what I would expect of a competition. The broth was light, perfectly balanced and had a nice hint of ginger at the end that wasn't overpowering in the least. They also didn't skimp on toppings. Five huge slabs of pork, lots of menma (which I don't eat, but realize is an important part of ramen), eggs, nori, etc.
There was a pretty long line to get these noodles, but I understood why when I took my first mouthful. When you slurp the noodles up, that ginger flavor really comes out in the delicious broth. Cleverly done, boys!
There were fingerprints on the lense of my camera from nearly losing my grip on the bowl, my umbrella and camera simultaneously. There wasn't a table to be had and I had to stand the whole time while juggling two or three things per hand in the rain. Please forgive. Feast your eyes on my poorly photographed bowl of heaven! The bowl was bigger than it looks in the photograph, closer to the actual size of a regular ramen bowl.
麺屋こうじグループ with their ramen creation "Kizuna" shoyu ramen
This group gets "the worst" mention from me for two reasons. 1) That they didn't ration their toppings to last the five days of the event, or didn't care if Sunday people got anything, and 2) they didn't put up signs that they were out of toppings and took our tickets without asking if it was okay.
Okay, so some competitors ran out of toppings or ran out of ramen (amateurs!) early on Sunday. Most had the courtesy to put up signs saying they were out or had the people working the line inform customers. The Koji group did neither and even had a man taking tickets from us in line and marking them with marker so we couldn't use them anywhere else. When I got to the front of the line sans ticket (they had relieved me of it five minutes before) and was given a plain bowl of ramen with some paper thin chashuu thrown on top, I was pissed off. Where were my wontons? Where were my thick cut pieces of pork?!? With no appology, I was told "we're out." when I asked about toppings and had a bowl thrust into my hands. How rude!
I was supposed to get this (notice the wontons in the upper left hand corner and the appetising tea-smoked eggs on the right):
Instead, I got a messy bowl of slop:
Luckily, the hilarious guy from 次郎長 × 大心 × えん楽 (Hokkaido) cheered me up in his plucky little squid hat.
After the event, my pal and I hit up a local restaurant for a pitcher of beer. Perfect end to the day!
Despite the rain and the Koji group's selling of ramen under false pretenses, I had a great time. I recommend this event to everyone next year. It's a bit more pricey than just buying a bowl at your local shop, but the high level of quality (for some...*cough cough koji group cough*) makes it worth it. I'll be thinking about that Neo-ginger bowl the next time I'm hungry for ramen.
It's true what they say....