The Ramen Burger Blows Up Smorgasburg
By James Mulcahy
August 12, 2013
It was easy to tell which booth at Smorgasburg this Saturday featured the new mash-up item that is causing a viral sensation in the food world. Even before any of the booths were set up at 9:30 AM, there was a line at least 30-40 strong outside the Ramen Burger stand. As the 11 AM opening time approached, the line grew well past 100 patrons, each hoping to get their hand on the bizarre bite created by Keizo Shimamoto, who seemed dumbfounded by his success (more than a few patrons were angling for pictures with the noodle guru as they waited in line).
Let's cut to the chase: how does the ramen burger taste? Once the line started moving (and after the staff huddled and encouraged each other with a team chant), one burger per person was dispensed in a paper wrapper that pulls back so you can bite the top half while holding the patty (a must when eating on-the-go at this festival). Though the ramen is the gimmick, the sauce is where it's at here. It's a secret, thickened shoyu blend that is at once sweet and garlicky (and you better eat fast - it was dripping out of our wrapper by the time we finished). The arugula didn't really register but the scallions that are placed on on side of the "bun."
And, about that bun. It's the true innovation here - the fresh-cut Sun noodles are held together in a disk and lightly seared on the top, which provides a graspable surface. The noodles stay soft in the center, giving the disk a bread-like texture. Actually, it's not so far from an actual bun, so biting into this is at once strange and familiar. The flavor combo is actually more like a beef teriyaki than a bowl of brothy ramen, though the noodles add plenty of texture, the affect they have on the flavor is subtle. While it wasn't the most delicious thing we tried at Smorgasburg that day, it was the most fun. Stay tuned for a full video on our taste test.
So, was it worth the hours-long wait? Plenty of people seemed to think so. One of the first members in the line took a bite of his patty and exclaimed "this is going to get so many likes on Facebook!" A number of folks eagerly compared the burger to the other hybrid-food creation that's making people line up in SoHo, and one visitor sought to capitalize on this. A gentleman, who refused to be photographed or named, carried around a box of Cronuts secured that morning, which he was attempting to scalp to the people in line. There were no takers by the time we left, but think of the number of "likes" a single photo of these two goodies would get.