It’s Foodie Tuesday!
Chicago is known for many things: incredible architecture, world-class museums, endless shopping. And food, don’t forget the food! Years ago I would have been referring to deep-dish pizza or massive steaks but lately big name chefs have been filling the city with hot spots that feature cuisine from around the globe.
Image: Slurping Turtle
I’m a huge fan of Top Chef and dream about visiting all the contestants’ restaurants in this town, including season four winner Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat and Little Goat Diner) and fan-favourite Fabio Vivani (Siena Tavern). Top Chef Masters are also well represented: Tony Mantuan owns Spiaggia, while Rick Bayless has a plethora of Mexican restaurants in town. But the Master who really wins my heart is Takashi Yagihashi.
This past weekend I finally got to eat at his place, Slurping Turtle. The Japanese-born, Chicago-based chef is best known for the French-Asian fusion cuisine of his other restaurant, Takashi but since it is a little pricey for my graduate student-budget I am happy that there is a more affordable option.
Image: Random Acts of Kelliness
Given the name, it is not surprising that this place is known for its udon and ramen bowls, full of meat and veggies waiting to be slurped up noisily with the flavourful broths they come in. But the real star of the menu is the izakaya, small plates meant to paired with drinks (and there is a wonderful selection of Japanese beers, sakes, and creative cocktails to do just that).
Much of these little bites have an Asian-American flair to them. The Duck Fat Fried Chicken is more succulent and juicy than anything the Colonel offers, in small pieces that seem to come from some exotic miniature species. What really puts this dish over the top is the accompanying dipping sauce, a wonderfully creamy, slightly spicy siracha mayo.
Pork Belly Snack features tender meat enrobed in a rich, sweet soy caramel ginger glaze atop pieces of flattened bao dough. The pickled cucumber and onions are reminiscent of traditional southern bbq sandwiches; a small arugula salad with sweet onion vinaigrette, Asian pear, and black sesame seeds replaces American slaw. I would take this over a pulled pork sammy any day- and that’s saying a lot!
Image: Slurping Turtle
The Bincho menu also offers an impressive variety of meats, veggies, and seafood cooked over white charcoal (known as bincho-tan in Japanese). I wish I had been with a group so that I could order a bigger selection (enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon, shishito peppers with benito flakes, Washugyu beef, fried tofu- it all sounds awesome).
Unfortunately by this time I was pretty stuffed but the bartender suggested I get the octopus and it was the perfect ending to my meal. The flesh was a little toothsome but with a clean, slightly briny flavour enhanced by the smoky charcoal.
I only wish that I had thought to grab a raspberry-wasabi or yuzu macaroon to go.
If you are in Chicago and looking for a satisfying meal, you should definitely check out the simple, fun food on offer at Slurping Turtle!