Slurping Turtle has been open in Ann Arbor for about one year now, but I finally just made it in. Chef Takashi Yagihashi is renowed for his Chicago restaurants, and has also appeared on Food Network’s Iron Chef and Iron Chef Masters.
I’ll admit I considered visiting previously (and was excited to do so), but the prospect of the cafeteria-style seating with a one big long table, where you’re seated next to strangers, just didn’t draw me in. I’m a pretty introverted person and I just want to chat with my dining companions, not strangers. But that’s just me. Maybe that makes me lame. I don’t care. I imagine cocktails might lubricate the process if you’re seated next to the right people.
But finally, Five Cent Femme and I bit the bullet and braved the cafeteria-style seating to have dinner at Slurping Turtle. (Spoiler alert: the seating situation was fine; but I still prefer more space between myself and randoms at dinner so I can talk about whatever I want and not worry about offending the little old lady next to me. There are a few small booths and if you’re lucky and come at the right time, you might be able to score one.)
First I tried a Pork Belly Bao and WOW! It was amazing. Perfectly warm and moist steamed bun filled with tender and flavorful pork belly, and a bite of pickled veggies. Excellent. Party in my mouth. (Way better than Tomukun’s, IMO, but I don’t know that it’s the best in town because San Street has some pretty legit bao. But it’s possible.)
I wish I could write you a legit review of the ramen but honestly my experiences with ramen are few and I am just not an expert in the topic of ramen (other than Cup o’ Noodles as an undergrad) so I won’t pretend I am.
In lay terms, I can tell you that I ordered:
- Tonkotsu Ramen: “thin homemade ramen noodles, silky pork broth, pork chashu, bok choy, pickled mustard greens, braised wood ear mushrooms, chili oil.”
I can also tell you that I found the broth to be incredibly rich and flavorful and loved it. The noodles, well, I expected more given the hype. They are homemade in the restaurant but just didn’t seem like anything special to me. The pork chashu was way too fatty to be palatable to me, so I left most of it behind. I left feeling full of carbs and broth – I’d have liked more veggie mix-ins personally, but again, I’m not ramen expert so maybe that’s just not ramen. So basically, I really liked the ramen, but I didn’t love it, nor did it blow me away.
The macarons I ordered for dessert left me wishing that I’d ordered one of our server’s recommendations instead, such as the green tea cream puffs. The macaron flavors were fun and inventive – kaffir lime, caramel soy, and raspberry wasabi – my favorite being the latter, which was a perfect balance between sweet raspberry and that wasabi bite. My only gripe is that they didn’t taste super fresh – they tasted a day or two old based on their chewy texture. (Now that I’ve tasted melt-in-your-mouth fresh ones on my birthday, I have higher expectations!)
Our server did a great job walking us through the menu for our first visit and making recommendations.
I walked away with mixed feelings overall, but would probably return to try some of the other intriguing menu items in the future, such as hamachi tacos, the other bao varieties, duck fat fried chicken, and other desserts – oh, and cocktails and sake! I would probably just try to visit during a non-busy time to try to score a booth or uncrowded seating area.