ABC7's Steve Dolinsky recently followed a Chicago chef back to his native country, attempting to learn more about his beloved ramen, and found that eating in Tokyo isn't all that different from eating in River North.
"You're not going to be ordering inside, you order outside, you pay it and we gonna show the ticket and the food is coming right away. It's a pretty convenient system," said Chef Takashi Yagihashi, who also owns The Slurping Turtle and Takashi in Chicago.
Inside the restaurant Ivan Ramen, the cooks work feverishly. Deftly handling homemade noodles, boiling them for exactly 40 seconds, then adding them to salty, umami-rich broths; some soy-based, others with miso. There are only about a dozen seats at the counter - typical in Japan - and people do, indeed, slurp.
"I got roast garlic. It's very good. It's creamy, very garlicky, tastes almost like a chowder," he said. "Some of it is very standard, very traditional ramen here and some is Ivan's original. This noodle is very, very thin. Much more thinner than mine."
Back in Chicago, at Yagihashi's restaurant - Slurping Turtle - he shows how he makes his noodles from scratch, using an expensive machine imported from Japan.
The noodles we saw in Tokyo had a very specific boiling time – around 30 or 40 seconds. I asked Yagihashi what his method involved.
"We do one minute, 10 seconds," he said. When asked if that's because his noodle is different, he said, "You could say that, but everybody has a different taste."
Yagihashi likes to add crunchy bok choy, pork shoulder and a soft-cooked egg to his bowl of shoyu ramen, which is based on soy and chicken stock. One thing that remains the same no matter which country you're in.. The slurp.
"You going to put the broth in your mouth and the noodle at same time. So it's a very special technique," he said.
Even though Takashi serves traditional Japanese ramen at Slurping Turtle, the dishes change with the seasons, so his shoyu for example, might not be on the menu in a couple of weeks. You also might see a couple of tweaks to his menu, based on that recent trip to Japan.
116 W. Hubbard St.
Takashi's ramen is also available at Macy's on State Street on the 7th floor at the Takashi Noodles kiosk.
3-24-7, Minamikarasuyama, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo