I first heard about Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi through various food sites and word of mouth. It wasn’t until BE (boyfriend elected) peaked my interest. After a ramen huddle, I was on a mission to find this place. More like, I was elected to try it out.
At the corner of State and Lake, I was on the phone with him and he stated, “It’s at this address. Do you see it?” Me: “What? Macy’s?!?!” Him: “Yeah, it’s in a store.” Me: “Some store indeed!” Huh, an interesting choice of venue. Admittedly, when I realized it was in Macy’s food court, my self imposed expectations of the ramen fell. It’s in a food court… in downtown Chicago… IN MACY’S. Once inside, a Macy’s security guard directed me to the 7th floor food court.
Noodles by Takashi is located towards the middle of the court. This sign also made me pause and think, Marcus Samuelson has burgers?? Must come back for that!
Let’s take a look at the menu. My immediate thoughts were ‘ramen, combos, fried rice (cha-han), tatsuta-age?!, dumplings-potstickers is redundant, harumaki-spring roll is redundent, spring rolls sounds good.’
Staff of 3 doing actual cooking. 2 people taking orders and putting toppings on ramen bowls.
And people waiting for their ramen. A diverse crowd of hungry patrons.
Just… 3 people? Moving forward, I ordered a miso ramen + potsticker combo (potstickers should be named gyoza since it’s a Japanese place, but I suppose I’m splitting hairs).
You are given a tray and like everyone else, you stand and wait for your ramen. As people get their food, you slide your tray and drinks down too.
Don’t forget to pick up your soup spoons, forks and chopsticks along the way. Sometimes you’ll slide to the end of the counter and forget.
Sliding down the counter comes with improved visibility of the kitchen. Toppings galore on these ramen bowls. Nothing is held back.
You made it to the end of the counter. Now wait for them to yell your order out.
Miso ramen is ready to eat. A few observations I made before digging in. As in the U.S.A., bigger is better so there’s a hefty amount of toppings on this ramen. The naruto is cut kind of odd (fish cake; the swirly white and pink thing). I do read the actual Naruto manga itself /off topic.
Seaweed, bean sprouts, green onions (scallions), corn, braised pork, sesame seeds and some unidentifiable spice. Looking good so far.
In the ramen world, the broth makes the bowl. If you don’t understand, go rent the movie Tampopo. Looking at this spoonful of broth is a giveaway that the broth is off. Why? Because the broth is too clear and it looks like a shoyu/shio (soy sauce/salt) broth. I know since I typically order miso ramen because it has a heavier, thicker, heartier, fattier, richer tasting broth with a miso taste. You may think I’m talking BS, but go here and read about it. Also, BE orders shoyu ramen more than me so I have an idea of what it looks/tastes like. I tasted the broth and honestly thought I had the WRONG BOWL. It tasted like shoyu with a tiny bit of something else, I’m guessing miso. I returned the bowl and the staff assured me that I had, indeed, received a miso ramen.
Not going to lie, I was really disappointed in the broth, but I have other parts of this meal to take into account. Bean sprouts was fine, corn was fine, seaweed was bland, green onions was fine…
But the pork! This braised pork was the bomb! It was so tender that it fell to pieces after I pulled it out from under the vegetables. How about I just order a plate of this meat instead? This was GOOD. Tender. Nomnom-licious. Flavorful. W.T.F. More pork please, seriously. Next time, I’m around the food court, I will attempt to order a plate of this meat. It’s good.
Let’s check out my half order of pork dumpling potstickers (redundant). Comes with sauce and if requested, some hot sauce (in the background).
Took off the lid and moved the sauce to the side. Looking good! Tasted the pickled cabbage. Ok, we’re going to change my order next time I’m here. A plate full of pickled cabbage and braised pork PUH-LEASE. This was crisp, sweet and tangy. I was wondering why people left their pickled cabbage on their trays. BECAUSE THEY’RE CRAZY?
I ordered the dumplings because the wait staff said she really liked them. And I should have totally IGNORED her advice and gotten the shrimp harumaki instead. The filling was bland, the mouth feel of the meat felt mushy and the dumpling skin was oily and limp. I can make better dumplings than that.
I finished the bowl. Why? Because I was hungry and I can’t bear to leave it uneaten (and I paid for it). For those wondering, the noodles were fine. Surprisingly, not mushy. I was sad after eating it. Lots of great things going for the ramen, but the broth needs serious improvement. On the other hand, I ran into some familiar faces and they ended up ordering the shoyu ramen and the tatsuta-age (Japanese fried chicken). The tatsuta-age looked really good. Perhaps I’ll order that next time around. BE and I figured it may be safer to order the shoyu ramen since…. that’s what my miso ramen tasted like. Might as well get the official thing. But one thing for sure, a plate of pork and pickled cabbage is in order.
Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi
Located inside Macy’s, 7th floor
111 North State Street
Chicago, IL 60602