More than 1,000 people stood in a line that wrapped around the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Torrance on Saturday morning, hoping to get a taste of the Ramen Burger. The massive crowd huddled in the shade of the building, cameras ready for the burger’s West Coast debut.
Friends Joe Yang, Bryan Jue and Jae Hahn from the South Bay area showed up to wait in line at 6:20 a.m. with chairs and a paper fan. “We thought it was intriguing enough to come and wait,” Jue said.
“I like ramen and I like burgers, so ...” Hahn added.
Keizo Shimamoto, the man behind the Ramen Burger, and his crew, all dressed in black and white T-shirts, began making the burgers around 10:45 a.m. in a test kitchen located in the marketplace. He stood by in a blue Dodgers cap and watched as the first ramen “buns” were placed on hot pans for browning.
Photographers and videographers crowded in close with their cameras to get a look, snapping away at the burger, which debuted at the Smorgasburg food festival in Brooklyn earlier this year.
Keizo’s brother Jeffrey Shimamoto, who serves as his unofficial press manager, explained that Keizo began prepping the burgers Thursday at the kitchen at Chaya downtown. At Mitsuwa, an assembly line of pre-formed ramen buns, portioned patties and a final burger building station were all set up.
Two cooks manned the ramen browning station, another grilled the meat, then Keizo and a cook assembled the burgers with lettuce, green onion and Keizo’s secret sauce. The burgers were then wrapped into paper folded origami-like that enveloped the entire burger.
Ted Ushirogata, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt with a Tommy Bahama chair strapped to his back, got in line around 8 a.m. For him, it was worth the wait. He eagerly unwrapped his burger like a present, then let out a long “mmmm” after the first bite.
“I was worried about it falling apart,” said Ushirogata. “It’s good, I think what really helps is the sauce, because if it was just by itselft, it would be bland.”
Shimamoto only planned on serving 500 burgers in Torrance on Saturday, although a rough count from his team estimated 1,200 people were in line. He’ll be at Osawa in Pasadena on Sunday with 300 more.