It was two days before Halloween, and I excitedly climbed up the stairs to FEAST, UCLA’s Pan-Asian dining hall located next to Rieber Hall.
The event of the night was an anime-inspired Halloween dinner, hosted by UCLA’s Japanese Animation Club (JAC). It wasn’t the first time that JAC had put on an anime-themed dinner–they had previously hosted two FEAST Anime Dinners in Spring 2014 and Spring 2015, but this was the first year that they were having it around Halloween.
In the spirit of Halloween, some JAC members and students who attended the event dressed up in amazing cosplay and costumes.
After browsing the tables, I joined the line with my friends, and we waited until the doors opened.
The inside of FEAST was decked out with spooky cobwebs, anime posters and plushies, and jack-o-lanterns that had Pokemon and other anime characters carved into them. All of the workers wore adorable Halloween headbands adorned with witch hats, cat ears, and pumpkins.
The lines inside for food were longer than usual, but they were well worth the wait. Almost every dish was inspired by a specific anime and shown on the TV screens at each station.
My friends and I found a table in the back corner, and I slowly stockpiled food from every station on half of it. The first dish that I ate was the Spirited Away Ramen (pictured at the very top of the article). Inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s 2001 movie, Spirited Away, it was a delicious combination of seafood, ramen noodles, and slightly tangy red broth.
The second dish that I tried was the Elsa Marie “Witch Hair” Pasta, inspired by Puella Magi Madoka Magica. It was tarako (cod roe) pasta with chewy squid tentacles and squid ink. It was also delectable, with just the right amount of saltiness, and wasn’t fishy at all. The only downside was that the ink got all over my mouth, so I temporarily had black lips and teeth (which was easily fixed with napkins and a few sips of water).
The third dish that I ate was the Witch Charlotte Fingers, also inspired by Puella Magi Madoka Magica. This was a vegetarian option, consisting of deep-fried battered zucchini and red-colored cashews, served on a bed of rice with a thick egg slurry that was the consistency of egg-drop soup. Even though the zucchini was fried and the slurry seemed quite viscous, the dish tasted light and fresh, making me feel like I could have eaten more if I had not set myself up with the daunting task of trying everything on the menu.
My next dish was the Titan’s Meat Lover Flatbread, which was inspired by the popular anime Attack on Titan. The flatbread was covered in ham, ground beef, sausage, peppers, pickled daikon, dried seaweed flakes, and sesame seeds. True to its name, it was a meaty delight of savory flavors and umami that any meat lover would have enjoyed.
By this point in my meal, I was starting to feel quite full, but I still had more food to try. Thus, I decided to take a small break from savory dishes and ate The Butler’s Signature Strawberry Flatbread (vegetarian flatbread option), inspired by Black Butler. The unification of strawberries, cream cheese, walnuts, and a white chocolate drizzle was heavenly; and it was clearly my friends’ favorite dish (along with the Spirited Away Ramen) because they both got seconds.
Returning to savory foods, The “Death on Horseback” in a Blanket, which was inspired by Soul Eater, was next on my list. It was a bacon-wrapped sausage, served with a piece of puff pastry. I was confused by how to eat it at first and ended up just taking alternate bites of sausage and puff pastry. The smoky bacon-wrapped sausage paired nicely with the buttery and flaky pastry.
I realized that I had only three more dishes to finish before I could indulge in the desserts, and I eagerly moved on to the Deep-Fried Piranha, also inspired by Soul Eater. It was a fried fish fillet, served with a tangy ketchup. The panko coating was golden brown and crispy, the fish was well-cooked, and the sauce was sweet and slightly spicy, but at a manageable level of heat.
I ate the Soul “Brain” Pancake, which was also inspired by Soul Eater. The salmon mousse on top of the okonomiyaki (savory pancake) did sort of resemble a brain. The presentation was beautiful, but the taste was okay because the mousse had a strong fishy flavor that overpowered everything else.
My last savory dish was the Faceless “Eyeball” Custard (vegetarian option), also inspired by Spirited Away. The shiny, jiggly texture with the olive in the middle made the custard look like an eye. The egg custard had a soft creamy texture with a strong ginger taste and subtle flavor of the soup it was steamed in.
After I finished my last savory dish, I was utterly bloated, but my stomach always had room for dessert. I had a small piece of matcha (green tea) cake, which had matcha’s signature light grassy taste and was just sweet enough to overcome any bitterness. The cake was not inspired by a specific anime, but matcha is an important part of Japanese food culture (used in beverages, sweets, tea ceremonies, and more). It is sometimes served at FEAST on normal days, so I knew that the layers of creamy green tea mousse and cake would not disappoint.
The dessert that I had been waiting to eat from the beginning of the dinner was a Pokemon cupcake. There were a variety to choose from, and I picked one with an Espurr on it. They were vanilla cupcakes covered in a whipped cream with a Pokemon printed on white chocolate. Inside every cake, there was a strawberry jam filling, and they were both adorable and tasty.
I was stuffed after finishing my cupcake and reflected on my decision to try every dish. Despite feeling like I had raised a giant food baby, I had no regrets and definitely would have done it all over again. Before I had to leave, I stayed at FEAST a bit longer and watched Kyodo Taiko perform, food happily rumbling in my stomach to the beat of the drums.
All in all, I had a fun and satisfying dinner (although I might have eaten too much). The food was delicious, the decor was fitting, and the atmosphere was exciting. Great job to JAC for all of your hard work in creating this event!
If you would like to see more photos from the event, please check them out here.