Our first bowl was Shina Sobaya, run by the famous "Ramen Devil" Sano-san in our next-door neighbor prefecture of Kanagawa.
He's very famous in ramen circles as a strict and stubborn character (though I'm not sure if he's this way in real life). Apparently, he collected highly select ingredients from all over Japan and collaborated with 11 different ramen chefs!
|Sano Minoru no gachinko tsukemen (850yen)|
The appearance of this bowl is like art. Ikura, or salmon eggs, dot the noodles like a necklace of little orange pearls.
The taste was delicate, much more like Japanese soba than ramen. The flavor of the flour in the noodles is pleasant, but the salmon eggs were just a decoration after all. They slid off the noodles and had to be eaten one by one after the noodles were consumed.
While the taste was a disappointing experience, I'm happy that this bowl was creative and tried something different from all the rich and creamy tsukemen that dominated the festival. This isn't a top bowl, but it's imagination was solid.
Our next bowl was Sanji, a well-regarded shop hailing from Tochigi prefecture.
A dense soup made of fish, pork, chicken, and beef bones, this was a bowl that had it all.
|Sanji no tsukemen (850yen)|
The ramen came with a side of freshly-made salsa, but the taste of the salsa was completely drowned by the high impact of the meaty broth. I could see this working with a really spicy salsa, but this mild tomato mash just disappeared when it hit the bowl.
Sanji makes a gyokai-tonkotsu tsukemen that is good but typical. I'm not sure I'd wait over an hour to get this when tsukemen like this is everywhere in Tokyo...
Finally, we tried the Osaka-based Ramen Life JET!
|Noukou torinikomi tsukemen (850yen)|
An all-chicken base ramen that is a lighter version of Inaba, which we tried earlier in the fest.
It didn't have the shock-factor of Inaba, but it was a pleasing final bowl of the festival.
As the curtains come down on the fest, which shop will come out on top as the Grand Champion of Tsukemen? Check the Festival Page in a few days for the results.
We were sometimes surprised, sometimes overjoyed, and sometimes disappointed at the 2nd Annual Tsukehaku, but one thing is certain: if the creativity of these bowls are any indication, the future of tsukemen will be a lot of fun!