Sunday, March 9, 2014

Slurping Turtle

For several years, Chef Takashi Yagahashi, of Takashi fame, served noodles at his eponymous restaurant on Sunday.  This Japanese comfort food was very popular, selling out frequently, so about a year and a half ago he opened another restaurant, Slurping Turtle, which was based around noodles and ramen.  I really liked the restaurant, Takashi, but I had never been there for noodles.  Having said that, I was confident that this would be as good as the original.  I finally got around to dining here last night (Saturday).  Located in River North, it is a bit more casual than some of the hot restaurants in the area.  It looks on the outside, like any other restaurant in the area.  While there is a door at the front of the restaurant, it is blocked and is not the actual entrance.  The actual entrance is shared by a neighboring nightclub with a large modern metal door.  Entering Slurping Turtle requires a walk down a hall and entering at the rear, near the open kitchen.  As it was Saturday in a hot dining area, it was pretty crowded and there were people waiting outside the restaurant.  I left my name with the hostess and had to wait a few minutes but I was fairly quickly seated at the bar.  The bar is relatively small for the size of the restaurant but it seemed to handle orders pretty quickly.  The space itself was pretty big, high ceilinged and very unfinished.  The ceiling was unfinished hanging lights and the walls were unfinished cinder blocks (other than the tall smoked windows in the front).  There were tall photographic prints hanging on the walls.  Seating, other than the bar, consisted of a large communal table in the center of the room, some 4 top booths along the wall opposite the bar, an 8 top table in the front of the room, and some more 4 tops on the second floor which is located only at the front of the restaurant.  As I said, I was seated at the bar which featured craft and Japanese beer, sake, wine, and cocktails.  I ordered a drink called the Groundhog's Day while I was looking at the menus.  It contained Ford's Gin, Luxardo Bitters, Yellow Chartreuse, Housemade Pomegranate Grenadine, and Lime Juice.  It was tart, bitter, and refreshing with a botanical flavor and I really enjoyed it.  The food menu was divided into Hot Tapas, Cold Tapas, Bao, Sashimi, Noodles, Rice, and Sides.  This actually made things a little confusing when making choices.  There was also a much smaller prix fixe menu containing a selection of three appetizers, three entree, and a dessert chosen from the larger menu to choose from which made things much easier when trying to make choices.  I decided to go with the prix fixe menu.      
For my appetizer, I chose Hamachi Tacos which were listed as Hot Tapas on the main menu.  There were three tacos which contained Tomatoes, Cilantro, some very tender Hamachi, and Crisp Corn Shells.  The lettuce that invariably can be found on all tacos was used as a garnish on the plate, framing and separating the shells.  The tacos were crisp, juicy, and very flavorful.  I really enjoyed them and they set my palate for an enjoyable dinner.

While I could have come here and eaten rice or sushi, Slurping Noodle was made to showcase Ramen so I had to try one of the Ramen dishes here.  I got Tonkatsu, which came in a large bowl and consisted of  Thin Housemade Ramen Noodles, Silky Pork Broth, Pork Chashu (Braised Pork Belly), Bok Choy, Pickled Mustard Greens, and Braised Woodear Mushrooms.  It was also garnished with Green Onions.  This was truly comfort food.  It was rich, creamy, and salty with a lot of different textures.  The Pork Chashu was very tender and flavorful.  While it was definitely porky, it surprisingly didn't remind me of bacon which comes from pork belly and the bok choy, mustard greens, and woodear mushrooms contributed there own flavors.
While the dessert I had was not classically Japanese, none of the desserts that I have had at Takashi were really Japanese.  Having said that, they do have a Japanese flavor to them.  I had a Green Tea Cream Puff.  The cream puff was served on a fresh tea leaf.  The puff had a solid, slightly salty, and flavorful shell that was sprinkled with Green Tea Powder.  The cream inside the puff was green, as might be expected of a green tea flavored cream.  It was slightly sweet with a pronounced green tea flavor.  While it was good, the green tea powder was a little tricky and I accidently inhaled a little while I was eating it which was rather unpleasant.  It was otherwise pretty good and made for a fitting finish to my meal.  I really enjoyed my meal here and will definitely return. 

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