What comes to mind when you think of ramen? You might think of those dried packs of noodles with seasoning packets that can be had for about 10 cents at the grocery store. And if you’re like me, then you’ve probably had your fair share of it through the years. But amazingly enough, the Japanese actually legitimately enjoy and eat ramen on a frequent basis. It stands to reason then that it can’t all be bad and there must be something delicious about it.
I don’t know if Takashi Yagihashi is on a mission to change minds about Japanese noodles but he’s done a good job so far. Following on the success of the hugely popular Sunday noodles at his eponymous Michelin Star restaurant Takashi, and the aptly named Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi eatery inside Macy’s, comes his latest izakaya restaurant Slurping Turtle. The name (and cute turtle logo) encourages diners to suck up bowls of broth, noodles, rice and more.
Upon arrival on a busy Saturday night, our name and number were taken and we were quoted a 45 minute wait. In the meantime my friend and I sauntered around the corner and stopped at Roka Akor for drinks, or in particular—shochu. For those who don’t know, it’s a Japenese spirit typically from barley, sweet potatoes or rice and stronger than your normal wine or beer. I settled on the spicy mango shochu infusion that was served over a block of ice and was pleasantly satisfied with the decision. In short, it was a refreshing distilled beverage with a hint of mango and a spicy kick. I would definitely try another one again and would have if our table at Slurping Turtle hadn’t been ready for us at that point.
Now the décor at Slurping Turtle actually caught me a bit off guard. I was expecting somewhat of a smaller place (think Urban Belly) and the large, sleek and modern room threw me. I actually managed to completely walk by the place while attempting to find it at first. Nonetheless, the inside is lined with booths and a few tables but a majority of the seating is at a long communal table in the center of the room. There’s also a bar and some isolated cove booths in an upstairs section overlooking the dining area.
The menu is comprised of an array of different items aside from ramen. Dumplings and hot tapas serve as appetizers, noodle and rice dishes are the main highlights, and you can order sashimi and other meats off the bincho grill. We ordered the duck-fat fried chicken to start, which was served with some sort of sauce and pickled vegetables, and I was pretty underwhelmed. I’m not sure if we just got a bad batch because others have raved about it but the chicken was dry and nothing special. It pains me to say that too, because I really, really love fried chicken but this was a major disappointment. Maybe I should temper my expectations from now on regarding stuff that’s fried in duck-fat because it always ends in heartbreak *cough* Hot Doug’s fries *cough*
Fortunately, the noodles saved the day. I had the Tan tan men, a reddish chili broth loaded with ground pork, succulent pork meatballs and an extra egg I added. This hit the perfect spot because if I could have things my way, most foods would be available spicy. The crimp noodles were cooked just right and the meatballs … well the meatballs were the stars. These things were juicy, packed with flavor and I dare say could give even the best Italian joints a run for their money. When I reached the bottom of the bowl I was filled with sadness. Because I wanted more. More meatballs.
While I can’t tell you how the rest of the menu fares, I can say that the ramen we had were delectable. There’s also a full dessert menu of macaroons, ice creams and such, as well as a drinks list including wine, sake, Japanese and craft beers. The prices won’t break the bank—the main dishes top out at $14—and the casual atmosphere makes it an ideal lunch spot. As a stand-alone noodle shop I would happily drop in again to slurp away like an 8 year-old at those noodle cravings I often get. And that’s how I think Yagihashi wants it.