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Chicago's Hottest Ramen Spots Fought To Be RamenFest's Top Noodle

By Chicagoist_Guest in Food on Nov 9, 2015 8:05PM

By Blair Chavis

bellyQ was transformed last Saturday into a labyrinth of tables stacked high with miniature cups of noodle soup. The second annual Ramenfest Chicago, a three-hour ramen tasting event hosted by bellyQ and Urbanbelly Executive Chef Bill Kim, drew a sold-out crowd of 300 for the second year in a row.

Armed with a couple of drink tickets and a pair of chopsticks, the entry fee gave visitors access to all the ramen varieties from 20 of Chicago’s top restaurants competing for the glory of top ramen. Each restaurant provided its own interpretation of ramen, in hopes of earning either judges’ choice or people's choice awards. Prizes for both awards included gold-plated chopsticks and a Korin knife monogrammed with “Ramenfest 2015.”

Co-Owners Mark Steuer and John Manion of El Che Bar and La Sirena Clandestina won judges’ choice for their Asado Ramen, made with smokey grilled beef broth, grilled rump steak, morcilla, pork shoulder, red and green chimichurri and haring crumbs. Giuseppe Tentori of GT Fish & Oyster won the people's choice award for his A5 Ramen, consisting of bone marrow, kimchi, pickled quail egg and mushroom.

Nico Osteria pulled out all the stops with its Shells & Cheese ramen with accompanying Yuzu-Black Sesame macarons and a signature Maialini cocktail. Strings Ramen Shop also went boldly broth-free with its Jigoku Hell Ramen (Level 1), which included “hot pepper and chili made from hell.”

Most of the restaurants opted for broth, and served it up tableside over cups of dry/pre-prepped ingredients, using teapots and ladles, as attendees approached their tables. Noteworthy varieties included Heaven and Seven’s bold choice with Cajun Ramen and Boltwood’s new, old-world spin with Chicken & Matzo Ramen Soup.

Our favorites included Ramen-San’s Fatty Ramen, El Che Bar & La Sirena Clandestina’s winning Asado Ramen, Michael Jordan’s Steak House’s Spicy Miso Ramen, Yusho’s Black Ramen with yusho fried clam and fermented squid and Smoque BBQ’s Smoked Brisket Ramen.

A portion of all proceeds from the event went to Chicago Chef Art Smith’s nonprofit, Common Threads, a charity dedicated to educating underserved communities via food and art.