An afternoon filled with Japanese food and drink is a great way to spend a day in LA. Held in the grand ballroom at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, the Japanese Food Festival should definitely be on your foodie bucket list. It cost $50 for admission and you get 3 hours of unlimited tastings. To make your food adventure more efficient, I suggest going with a friend! Some lines are longer than others because it takes time to prepare the dish. While my boyfriend waited in line, I went out a got some samples to bring back and enjoy while queuing up. Pro tip is to try to eat all the food first then make your rounds for drinks. This festival is a great way to learn about Japanese food and culture without having to go to Japan.
Throughout the afternoon, there are various demonstrations happening on the main stage. When we first walked in there was a drum performance, called taiko. After that, they showed how to properly fillet tuna, which would then be used for the sashimi station! The biggest spectacle was the preparation of the mega sushi roll. With multiple chefs working together, the end result was a giant roll that could feed a village! After that, they had traditional Japanese dances and tutorials on how to create cute characters out of rice and seaweed.
There were so many types of food to try! One of my favorites was the fresh cut sashimi, they used the fish from the filleting demonstration. We first stopped at the okonomiyaki station, a savory pancake grilled right in front of you. Then right after that, we tried some yakisoba noodles and takoyaki, a ball-shaped snack with diced octopus inside. We also got to try hand rolls prepared by the up and coming chefs from the Sushi Chef Institute. There were also vendors that were serving up some ramen and karaage, which is Japanese fried chicken. We ended the afternoon with some yummy dessert samples, red bean and matcha ice cream and aloe yogurt.
While eating all that good food, we got to taste many different types of sake and beer! You can definitely get your money's worth by drinking samples. I didn’t know much about sake, so when I tasted the various kinds, like filters, unfiltered, or premium, I was sure to ask the brand reps to explain the differences to me. They also told us what kind of food pairs well with each sake! There were also two beer vendors, Orion and Kirin, they kept the beer flowing. We sipped on our beverages while waiting in the food lines. If alcohol isn't your thing, they also had bottles of yakult, ramune, and a whole line of juices from Aloha Maid.