Walking into Slurping Turtle, a Japanese comfort food joint in River North, I was suspicious. After all, it’s practically common knowledge that great Japanese food in the US can only be found in New York City or on the West Coast– right? Could there really be authentic ramen and fresh sushi? In Chicago?
As it turns out, the answer is an unconditional “yes.”
Slurping Turtle’s bread and butter is big bowls of ramen noodles. Keyword actual ramen, made every morning from scratch in the restaurant’s basement, not microwaved for three minutes in a Styrofoam cup. Although the red miso ramen and vegetarian udon sounded enticing, I ordered the tonkotsu ramen, a classic noodle dish with braised pork, slow-cooked wood ear mushrooms, baby bok choy and a poached egg floating in a luxurious pork broth. After only my first mouthful, I had been transported to Japanese culinary heaven.
Ramen isn’t the only food Slurping Turtle has to offer, however. The menu features over 15 different appetizers, ranging from traditional Japanese munchies like gyoza potstickers to modern fusion creations such as hamachi tacos. My favorite bites were the duck fat-fried chicken, which tastes even more decadent than it sounds, and the pork belly bao, a sandwich composed of sweet Chinese pastry and rich barbecued pork.
Rounding out the menu are more traditional Japanese offerings: shashimi– and maki-style sushi, chahan rice bowls and desserts with flavors including yuzu, red bean, green tea and black sesame. While well prepared, inventive and delicious in their own right, it would be criminal to come to Slurping Turtle and not slurp down one of the best bowls of ramen you’ll ever taste.
What else is there to say? Like most other swanky downtown restaurants, service was efficient, the waiters were knowledgeable and personable and the ambience struck a great balance between lively and intimate. Slurping Turtle is a little pricey (the ramen are all $14), but you owe it to yourself as a college student to experience real ramen at least once. New York and California, eat your heart out – Chicago has finally jumped into the ramen game.
Location: 116 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654
Hours of operation: Sun-Thurs 11:30am-3pm, 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-3:30pm, 5pm-11pm