Culinary euphoria descends on the South Bay now through Sunday in the form of the chaotic, overcrowded Umaimono (delicious things) Gourmet Food Fair at Mitsuwa Marketplace Torrance. Fans of authentic Japanese eats--flown in, chefs and all, direct from Japan-- cannot afford to miss this opportunity to sample some of the archipelago's most coveted lunch cuisine.
Gluttony is more or less mandatory at this increasingly popular seasonal food festival. Try Takoya Kukuru's Osaka takoyaki (octopus dumplings), as much theater as it is lunch. The chefs whoop and holler and lead hungry line-sitters in a game of call-and-response as the dumplings cook; they pound a drum to signal a fresh batch, served whistling hot under drifts of bonito and two sauces. There is extravagant triple snow crab bento--snow crab inari and chirashi-style strips of the succulent, candy cane-colored flesh laid upon snow crab rice, accented with lotus root, pickled ginger and mushroom. There are carnival-inspired skewers of tempura, fish cake and soy-simmered konnyaku, and golden apple pie for two.
But the Umaimono grand prize is Chibaki-Ya's gyutan (beef tongue) ramen. Forget about the half-hour wait; you'll be twittering your anticipation all the way to the counter. Straw-yellow al dente noodles are nested in shio (salt) broth and topped with rafts of green and white onion that steep in the hot soup and intensify the dish while you eat. Three slices of beef tongue hover in the big china bowl, musky and supple as the nap on suede. Their charcuterie-like richness cuts the oceanic flavors of the broth perfectly.
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Make tracks to Mitsuwa Torrance today if you can; the crowds will grow even larger over the weekend. Tell your friends, come hungry and bring cash.
Mitsuwa Marketplace Torrance: 21515 Western Avenue, Torrance; 310-782-0335.