Now, here is the thing. I really, really enjoy writing about food, especially of the 'eating out' variety. But, as I have lamented previously, in France I simply can't afford the good stuff most of the time (although I have to say that I had an excellent lunch at Maison Druout in St. Rémy not long ago but was, alas, cameraless, hence proofless). Whenever I return to the States to visit my family, it is like whooppeeeeeee because a) they are foodies like me and need little to no encouragement to try something new and b) as Ann Arbor is a very cosmopolitan town, there is an international mix of delectables on nearly every block.
Of those, the opening of Slurping Turtle was the big kerbloom this year, as one would expect when a Michelin-starred chef - in this case Takashi Yagihashi - decides to go low brow and open up a noodle joint. Save, of course, as we all know, Michelin-starred chefs don't really do low brow, do they?
Despite copious scheming, I wasn't able to make it to Slurping Turtle until my Mom's Birthday. Now, if you have been reading here for any length of time, you will know that, in our family, the Birthday Rules are always firmly in place, meaning: Birthdayee calls the shots and don't even think about being snarky to said person in any way, shape or form. As my Mom was planning on going out to a big, sparkling dinner that evening (something that never happened as a giant thunderstorm rolled in with tornado warnings - eh oui, c'est le Midwest - and so I ended up baking my zillion spiced salmon and coconut milk mashed sweet potatoes on the fly), we were only there to "eat light."
Now, truly, tapas is my favorite style of eating. I am the walking definition of gourmande, aka piggy, so there you have it, the more things to try the better. While this meant that we did not get to slurp what is probably the most authentic Tonkotsu in North America (in-house freshly made ramen noodles with a machine imported from Japan, yada-yada), we did get to have several tasty treats that have remained in my memory and are filed away under the vague category of: "kitchen inspiration" (certainly as though I eat like a foodie, I cook like a Food E).
The Birthday Girl's favorite was (and it is no longer on the menu so it is rather unkind of me to tease you with it) a soy-marinated salmon tortilla with an anchovy aioli that was so good that when the waiter asked if he could take away the plate when there was only three capers left on it, we said no.
While the shrimp shumai received welcome nods of contentedness around the table, for me, the slam dunk was the sesame-marinated chicken fried in duck fat. I believe that it was my Sister who wisely opined, "What doesn't taste better cooked in duck fat?" A good question Robin, one that leaves me perplexed with perhaps a timid suggestion of: Skittles? Amazingly, as this was not the favorite of the other two redheads, they let me finish them off. Perfume rising up, skin crunching into sweetness, juice down the chin...don't mind if I do.
The only potentially weak spot was presented in the pork belly bao as it didn't quite have the magical bite to sink in ratio of their simpler counterparts that I would retrieve from an open window in Chinatown on hungover mornings when the symphony of NYC was set to screaming. Ah, yes, happy memories of headachy breakfasts can't compete with this zingier version, soy-ginger glaze or no.
If the comfort of comfort was missing in the bao, we certainly found it in the chocolate cream puff that was generously offered by our server in salutations of my Mom's big day (and yes, once I realized that we would be getting such goods, I continued to fling out such hopeful announcements wherever we ate and was rarely disappointed. Do you think such a gesture would happen in France? Free dessert? Are you mad?). We used our remaining chopsticks to pry open the brioche with a slightly crumbled crust and rolled our eyes over the pillow puffed mousse inside.
Cheers, chef Takashi and thank you for giving some lovely gifts to even the non-bithdayees at the table. As the turtle is the symbol of longevity in Japan, by all means let him slurp on...
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Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48104
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