Here's a quick drive by post with some information, photos, and ramen from this weekend's Ramen Yokocho Festival in San Jose. The festival is open until 9PM today and again from 11AM - 9PM tomorrow. Then next week it runs from Friday evening through Sunday. Click this link for more information:
Admission is $5 and ramen is $8/bowl
Express lane pass $20
VIP ticket $60 gets you early admission on Friday, express lane, 2 ramen, and a T-shirt
I went with a friend and we both used a media pass which got us free admission, express lane access, and enough tickets to try all 10 ramen stalls. Therefore, I can give you a truly comprehensive post about each ramen offered. They also had takoyaki and okonomiyaki but after 10 ramen bowls, we got tired.
NOTE: none of the vendors served egg with their ramen because the health inspector said it's too difficult to regulate the cooking temperature in that kind of environment. Boo!
My tips are: go with friends, many of them. It'll be more fun this way and you can all taste different flavors. Generally stick to the longest lines because those people know what's up. Unless you want something specifically from what I describe. Have fun!
First of all, everyone gets a free packet of Pocky at the door. If you get in early enough, there are Pocky displays inside which is a free for all and you can get as many packets as you want.
There's also a booth sampling Snapea Crisps.
Here are the ramen.
Tastunoya - when you walk in, it's the farthest left stall
thin noodles, creamy broth, pork has 80% fat
This has the best overall balance of everything, though I don't think it has the best in any category of meat, broth, or noodles. Probably my vote for second best broth.
Shin-Sen Gumi - from the popular LA based chain
Creamy broth with almost egg noodle-like noodles, thinly sliced pork, and pickled ginger. This also had a decent balance in terms of the 3 major items but is only a winner to me because of the broth. I'm not a fan of these noodles.
Kohmen - from Tokyo - farthest right stall
This one had the best soy marinated chashu, hands down. They give you two different types of meat. One which is a piece of lean pork that looks white in the photo. Another, which is buried under my broth, is a flavorful, thick cut of soy soaked chashu that is all lean, no fat. The noodles are the thicker, wavier kind you get from most ramen shops. There's also menma (bamboo shoots) in this too. If it wasn't for the broth, this one would have been my favorite because chashu is so important too.
Jinya Ramen Bar - From Tokyo and Los Angeles
Best spicy broth. Only 2 vendors were really serving spicy broths.
There's a gingery taste in the broth. Noodles come with cooked sprouts and woodear mushrooms. Meat is thinly sliced and so tender it's almost shredded.
After the top 4, I don't have any favorites so the rest are just random.
Chanpontei - From Shiga, Japan
This was really interesting to me. It's not the usual miso, shoyu, or tonkotsu broth. Chanpon broth is a hodge podge of pork and seafood. It often comes with this variety of veggies pictured. The noodles are also different. They are just the right amount of chewy. This is a good ramen for those who don't like the heavier broth and noodles.
Tsujita - From Tokyo and LA
This was the other spicy miso vendor. I did not like the spicy miso flavoring they used. It's that red paste. Maybe you can ask them to omit it if you want this ramen. There was something about it not to my liking. The cubed chashu was very good though. Probably the second best chashu.
Hiromaru - from Toyama, Japan and Las Vegas
This is the vendor known for fusion ramen. The broth here looked like milk. It tasted like lots of mushroom and umami though. Not bad. Very interesting. The noodles were just eh. Chashu was decent.
Men Oh - Tokushima and San Francisco
I thought this bowl was average in all categories of meat, broth, and noodles. Just average.
Keizo Shimamoto - New York
This vendor was supposed to do the ramen burger and they provided this bowl, which can only constitute a deconstructed ramen burger with tiny patty topped with a small slice of cheese. You're basically getting a broth-less, pan fried noodle with bacon bits. The bacon was great, the noodles were seasoned and cooked decently, the patty was just a patty, and you do get a handful of greens to balance. It's all the makings of a ramen burger, just in a different form. Not too shabby.
Shoki Ramen House - From Sacramento
This vendor was supposed to do organic tomato ramen but today he brought a ramen burrito. It comes with ramen, lettuce, sprouts, menma, and your choice of vegetarian, vegan, or pastrami inside. Topped with a sesame dressing and tomatoes on top. I'm never a fan of fusion things like this. I don't enjoy cold dry noodles and pastrami in a cold and dry wrap. But, I ate this after 8 bowls of salty ramen and was really relieved for the tomatoes and lettuce. Kudos for the heirloom tomatoes though. They're great.