Slurping Turtle has a summer menu that reminds all of us that “comfort food” needn’t be hot and rich.
But it is delicious. And friendly: Slurping Turtle’s summer menu features a number of dishes that are vegetarian, vegan, and/or gluten free, so it’s a great place to dine with your omnivore and diet-restricted friends alike.
I was invited to attend a media dinner that featured the new dishes available now at Slurping Turtle.
Seafood, along with vegetarian and gluten-free dishes are featured prominently. Starters include Morokyu, Yamakake Tuna, and Zuke Salmon. Morokyu is a vegetarian dish for the cucumber lovers out there. It features lotus root, candied kumquat, and miso along with large pieces of sturdy cucumber; no watery cukes for owner Chef Takashi Yagihashi, a past participant in both “Top Chef Masters” and “Iron Chef America.”
Yamakake Tuna is wasabi guacamole, quail egg, yamaimo, and nori served in an avocado half. Yamaimo is a Japanese mountain potato that, when grated, becomes mucilaginous. In the case of Yamakake Tuna, the yamaimo, tuna, avocado, and quail egg make for a wonderfully creamy, unctuous appetizer.
Zuke Salmon is lightly soy-marinated salmon with wakame daikon salad and sweet onion dressing. So light and refreshing, and the salmon’s texture is so delicate that the dish left me wanting more.
Another vegetarian dish is Miso Dengaku, which includes a lovely array of miso-glazed items. Included are a surprisingly textured yam cake, delicate tofu, perfectly cooked eggplant, and those wonderful shishito peppers. For those unawares, these sweet peppers may very well be hot, about a tenth of the time.
More hot seafood small plates options are Kani Cream Croquette and Takoyaki. For those interested in a rich dish that includes French elements, the Kani Cream Croquette, a fried ball of snow crab, potato, and bell pepper topped with béchamel. This is not for the dieting set, but it is for those who appreciate good food.
Takoyaki is a traditional Japanese street food. Both management and Executive Chef Aaron Cuschieri told us how proud they were to get this dish right – and not just a house-fried frozen version of the beloved snack. Little fried octopus balls are doughy, but not at all dense, and covered in mayonnaise sauce and bonito flakes. Bonus is the serving dish that holds each octopus morsel in its own nest.
Finally, for this ramen house, the noodles, all of which are house made. Kinoko-Mochi isn’t a traditional noodle dish, but it is both vegetarian and gluten-free. The “noodles” are rolled mochi, which consists of a dough made from pounded glutenous rice. Not to worry, glutenous rice is sticky, but doesn’t actually contain any gluten protein that can cause digestive and other issues for some.
Kinoko-Mochi has a variety of vegetables including Japanese mushrooms, zucchini, and more of those great shishito peppers all in a caramel-colored umami-rich sauce. Not even the hardest core carnivore or glutenphile will miss their beloved proteins. (No, gluten is not “all things bad,” yes, it is a protein.)
More seafood and quail eggs: Chiyan-Pon that includes squid, octopus, shrimp, and scallops, and quail eggs and scallion over crispy ramen noodles for good measure. I was lucky enough to get one of the hard-boiled quail eggs in this shared dish. When just a bit of egg is needed, not much can beat a quail egg.
Cold ramen, a favorite of mine, and a dish that’s absolutely perfect for summer, is also on offer at Slurping Turtle. Hiyashi Chu-Ka is offered in a vegetarian version, but we received the omnivore’s version with ham, pork, shrimp, kanikama (krab, a sustainable seafood), broccolini, asparagus, kabocha squash, and citrus-soy dressing. So wonderfully refreshing. This was my favorite dish of the evening, but then I am biased.
Finally, the pièce de résistance of the evening: Red Miso Ramen. The noodles are of course house made. The short rib braised for hours before a huge chunk of the meat and gelatinous fat are placed in the broth along with bok choy, scallions, sweet corn, and fish cake. So rich, so filling. So good.
The sake was good as well. We were lucky to have a sake tutorial and learned that it’s served hot if it’s lower quality, that most everything sold in the US is of relatively high quality, and that there are wonderfully subtle differences between each kind. Also, there’s a lot of rice milling going on.
The evening was great, the food is terrific. The service is attentive, and the space a mix of booths, large tables, and communal tables. The restrooms need some work, as the stall I used had an overflushing problem and in general they are kind of sad.
However, that won’t stop me from going to Slurping Turtle again.