Ramen Burger Pop-Up
77 N Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101
Dining date: 9/8/13
Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Burger is America’s latest food mania since debuting just over a month ago. Shimamoto has served his burger a few times at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg, generating extremely long lines comparable to the cronut. Already, it’s inspired other restaurants across the country to create copycat versions in order to capitalize on the buzz. This past weekend, the Ramen Burger made its West Coast debut in a limited release (~500 burgers at Torrance’s Mitsuwa Saturday and ~300 at Pasadena’s Osawa Sunday). Even though the event was announced just a few days before the weekend, word spread very quickly and people came out for the burger…big time.
Saturday’s event had some of the longest lines I’d seen in LA for a food item with an estimated 1,200 people attempting to try the creation (many more were likely deterred upon seeing early images of the line). I decided to attend the Sunday pop-up in Pasadena; luckily, those lines weren’t nearly as long. Still, the wait-time for a burger was multiple hours, the majority spent in the sun on a day where temperatures approached the low-90s. The pros brought lawn chairs and umbrellas, making themselves comfortable for the long waits.
Born and raised in the SoCal area, I first met Shimamoto (below center; aka Go Ramen) at his ramen shop Bassanova in Tokyo (he has an amazing story – for some background, start here). I had some great food during my six-week Japan trip last fall and, even though I dined through 32 Michelin stars, his green curry ramen remains one of the most memorable singular food items I had. While I was wary of all the hype surrounding the item, I knew I was in good hands.
What is the Ramen Burger exactly? The concept is pretty straightforward, centered around a bun made of fresh ramen noodles. A beef patty is topped with a soy sauce-based glaze, scallions and arugula. That’s pretty much it.
We started waiting around 9am and got the burger a little bit after the 11am opening. The burger was on the petite side (definitely reminiscent of Japanese portions) and I wish the patties were thicker to get a little more juiciness and a higher beef:noodle ratio in each bite. Based on past pictures I’ve seen, the patties in NYC were much thicker but seemed to have shrunk in this version. However, I enjoyed the flavor profiles; the beef and sweet/savory glaze was packed with umami, while the arugula and scallions brightened up each bite. I actually really liked the noodle ‘bun’ and the chewy, al dente texture consistent throughout. I’m guessing that perfectly cooking the clump of noodles is probably the most challenging part in the execution here.
Was it worth the wait? It really depends on one’s appetite for the creation and aversion to waiting for food. It was both unique and tasty and I’m glad to be able to say I’ve tried it…but I’ll definitely wait for the lines to calm down before trying another one.