Today was the first day of the two-day Japanfes Ramen Contest (and Earth Day)! Twelve ramen vendors were present today and we got to try six of them. Three of the vendors flew all the way from Japan just to share their bowls with us.
Japanfes tacked onto a typical NYC street fair and was on 6th avenue between 24th and 25th street. Today was rainy, but we are dedicated ramenites and stuck it out! How it works is that you buy tickets in advance so that when you wait in line for each ramen vendor you don't have to handle cash - you can just hand them a ticket, grab it, and go. The size of the bowls was a little bit larger than your average delivery miso soup container from your fave sushi place. At the end, you can submit a vote for first, second, and third place. Our strategy was to wait in some of the longer lines (naturally these were the vendors from Japan) and then one of us would run to a shorter line and get some ramen to eat on that line. The longest line we waited on was over 1.5 hours! We finished one and ate 2 other bowls of ramen in that line. Each bowl was shared by Ryan and I so that we didn't get too full too fast. I would say, all in all, it was like we each had had one regular bowl of ramen (give or take).
Since there were so many that we tried, we are going to rank them from best to worst (of the ones that we tried today) instead of doing our typical ranking system.
BEST RAMEN OF THE DAY: Shrimp Wonton Ramen from Kachofugetsu (Japan)
Ryan and I both agreed that this was the best ramen of the day. It was a soy sauce base + seafood broth which was both light and tasty and definitely not too fishy. In this bowl was a shrimp wonton, menma, scallions, and pork. The pork was a little chewy and was not really seasoned. It also had the skin still on which added an extra flavor. The pork was definitely not the highlight of this dish, but the noodles were fantastic! They were wavy noodles that had a exceptional flavor and springy texture with the right amount of chewiness. All in all with the combination of the broth and the noodles, this was a home run!
2nd Best Ramen of the Day: Fukushima Chicken Paitan from Wakamusha (Japan)
This ramen was a very close second. The broth had a strong chicken flavor but was a little too oily. My first bite of this I couldn't tell and was in love, but the more I ate it the more oil we noticed. The noodles were similar to the ones at Kachofugetsu. The bowl included menma, scallions, fried onions (a little too similar to funions for my taste), these little seeds (which we couldn't place) and pork. The pork was also not the highlight for this bowl. It was chewy and not really seasoned (similar to the previous bowl). Either way, this bowl was a very close second and might have even been first if it wasn't for the oil.
3rd Best Ramen of the Day: Nikumiso Ramen from Menya Hinata (New York)
This ramen was one of the last ones we had and we were happy we decided to check it out today. The miso-infused chicken broth was not too salty or too heavy on the miso, but it definitely had a presence and was a hit in our book. This mini- bowl was the closest to a regular bowl of ramen with the amount of toppings it had. There was onion, scallions, woodear mushrooms, menma, bean sprouts, and corn. The pork had good flavor, but was a little dry. The noodles were thin and flat and definitely the weakest part of this dish.
4th Best Ramen of the Day: The Epitome of Shio Ramen from Menya Masamune (Japan)
This is the place that we waited on the longest line for. The line for us was over 1.5 hours and we used that opportunity to chat with people in line with us and go get a lot of these other ramens. Apparently at some point, the line went all the way from 24th to 25th street and then around the corner. Like most things where you have to wait over an hour and a half, it definitely did not hold up to its hype. The noodles were the best part, which were also similar to Kachofugetsu's. The shio broth was good but very simple and bland. The pork was cooked on a charcoal grill and had the best flavor of all of the pork we tried today, but was still lackluster. After waiting in such a long line, it was a little bit of a disappointment, but we are glad we tried it.
5th Best Ramen of the Day: Corn Ramen with Whipped Cream from Mentoku (New York)
This was definitely the strangest ramen we had today, and probably the strangest of the festival. This was actually our first stop since the line was non-existent and Ryan was insistent we had to try this whipped cream ramen. My first instinct was to run in the opposite direction, but gave it a chance. To preface this, the whipped cream did not taste sweet. Interesting idea but I think it freaked a lot of people out. The broth was a chicken base with A LOT of corn (like a lot a lot) and some bacon. All in all, we really liked this ramen, but it was more like a corn chowder with noodles than a ramen. I recommend you try it if you like corn chowder.
Worst Ramen of the Day: Shoyu Chintan from Mew Men (New York)
This was definitely the most disappointing ramen of the day. The chicken broth was way too oily. They did say that there was chicken oil added to the broth, but it was more noticeable than an added hint. The chashu pork was very thin and tasted more like roast beef than pork. Even the cut made it look like roast beef, which was a turn off. The noodles were only ok. This vendor was the only one that offered 3 different bowls from their stand.
The festival continues tomorrow, Sunday 4/23 (in Astoria, Queens on Steinway between Broadway and 34th Ave) and we will be fired up and ready to slurp. Stay tuned for our overall rankings after we try all of the contestants!
is a New Yorker who, when she isn't day dreaming about ramen, works as a producer for film and TV. She is absolutely terrible at using chopsticks properly, but gets the job done. Her go to ramen order: Tonkotsu with thick noodles, extra corn and scallions.