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Photo Essay: 8th Annual JRA Japanese Food Festival

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This Saturday we had the opportunity to check out the sights and eats at the 8th Annual Japanese Food Festival, which was held at the lovely New Otani Hotel in downtown and hosted by theJapanese Restaurant Association (JRA) of Southern California.

There were lots of tasty bites to eat, and plenty to drink, as well as crowd pleasing entertainment, like the Sushi Making Contest. We did our best to capture a taste of the tastes in the pictures we've got for you after the jump.

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First stop, the sushi tables, which blanketed the back of the room. Eaters were limited to two per visit, but multiple visits were not a problem, as the people manning the tables were more than happy to send patrons away with another plate. This plate had a piece each of Nigiri Sushi. The cuts offered at the sushi tables were your basic standard fare, like shrimp, barbequed eel, salmon, and tuna. Unfortunately, some of the more specialty or higher-end selections weren't available, although there was a table offering bite-sized Hamachi sashimi.

Eel (unagi) atop rice with sauce was tasty (left), as was the nigiri sushi/sashimi mixed plates available (right).

Bowls of Udon and Soba noodles sit on ice awaiting the addition of broth (left) and one of the desserts offered was mochi with fresh strawberries (right). By the time I got there the crepes were long gone, and since I didn't snatch up some of the other desserts on my first pass around the room I missed out on them entirely, since they were gone by the time I was ready for dessert.

Live sea urchin were on hand, and were plucked from the display case by this gentleman's adept hand, then cracked open and the "meat" removed, then sifted and cleaned and offered around to onlookers.

Some prepared sea urchin dishes were available, like the soba chip with sea urchin and guacamole (left) and the skewer of sea urchin atop a roll (right).

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In one corner there were sushi making machines. One was for pressing the rice into rounded platforms for the nigiri sushi, as the man demonstrates, then sealed into plastic wrap. The other was for roll making ("I'm a sushi chef!" declared the woman making the rolls) which produced rolls that were then plated and available to eat.

During the sushi making contest the crowd was enthusiastically egging on the contestants.

Since it was hard to see all the action onstage, a screen was set up against one wall so that everyone could watch the frantic sushi making.

The judges had a tough job!

There were many, many, many kinds of sake and wines to taste--it was staggering! Knowledgeable folks were on hand to explain the varieties and to answer anyone's questions about the beverages.

I liked the Beer Corner, mostly because as soon as I walked up some nice guy held out a beer with a grin for me.

One of the non-alcholic offerings was the delicious iced green tea, which was available in unsweetened, lightly sweetened, and raspberry.

Miss JRA (in traditional garb, at left) strolls among the crowd following the events onstage.

The decor inside the New Otani is lovely.

Traditional musicians in the foyer of the event drew admiring spectators.

Photos by Lindsay William-Ross for LAist