For anyone who missed out on Ramen Fest in downtown Decatur last Monday, let me recap it for you because trust me it’s worth it! Local culinary heavy-hitters Victory, Paper Plane, No. 246, Wrecking Bar Pub, Illegal Food, Pine Street Market, host restaurant, Makan, and more came out to play. And play they did. In fact, with so many flavors and ingredients at play my palate could hardly handle it all!
Our cups runneth over with heaping portions of broth, accompanying proteins and herbs, fresh ramen – some al dente, others more delicate and light but all unquestionably satisfying. It was a glorious event attended by only the hippest of the Atlanta hipsters and for a brief – really, fleeting – few moments, I almost felt cool by association. That wasn’t long-lived but luckily craft beer – provided by local Decatur brewery Wild Heaven – helped to soften that blow. Whether you opted for their Pale Ale, Belgian brew or their Cezanne, you weren’t disappointed and all paired delectably with the cuisine. So while I could run through every ingredient in each tasty Styrofoam bowl (arguably my least favorite part of the evening), I will keep this post to my favorite three. In very particular order, they were as follows:
#1: Victory & Paper Plane – “All Hail”
- It started as a traditional ramen at first bite. Until you hit the sesame oil and impossibly sweet mushrooms that were immediately and oh-so-pleasantly offset by green onions and pickled button fungi. If I could’ve had a third helping I would’ve but at that point I could barely speak I was so full. A crowd favorite indeed and mine as well. Too bad I’m so unoriginal but what can I say, they killed it! (Sadly not pictured – probably because it was gone before you could say “cheese”)
#2: No. 246 – “The Ramen That Bites Back”
- I’ll say first and foremost that I was warned to administer only one drop – of what was a fairly lethal drop – for its full effect. Suffice to say I’ll take the chef’s word for it next time. Even with my heavy hand considered, this ramen was still incredible and earned a #2 spot by yours truly. With a bountiful helping of herbs (much like what you might get at an authentic pho restaurant) this dish was perfectly balanced and delightful.
#3: Pine Street Market & Twain’s – “East Meets South”
- Not to be outshined (well, if only for #’s 1 and 2), this bowl was hearty, flavorful and hit with just the right amount of chili sauce that somehow accomplished a spicy and sweet combination welcomed by my tastebuds. The smoked trotter terrine and pickled collards took it from the streets of Japan to the backyards of the ‘A’ in one good bite. Well done, well done.
If you missed the Ramen Fest this year, don’t cry over spilled Tonkotsu broth, it will return. Keep an eye out for Ramen Fest 2016 and know that all proceeds go to a worthy organization. This year, proceeds benefitted The Decatur Education Foundation. Certainly something any local can get behind!