Chicago’s Furious Spoon advertises itself as a place where “ramen meets hip-hop.” This is not your typical ramen shop.
Chef Shin Thompson chose the name to give guests the permission to eat ramen the way he thinks it should be eaten – furiously. You are supposed to slurp the noodles furiously so that the noodles and the other ingredients do not overcook in the hot broth. All accompanied, of course, by his personally-curated list of hip-hop and rap to accompany said furious slurping.
After opening several successful Chicago restaurants, Thompson finally realized his dream to open a ramen shop inspired by his grandfather, who owned a shop in Japan in the 1960s. Together with Anshul Mangal, Thompson opened the first Furious Spoon location in the Wicker Park neighborhood in 2015. Today, there are eight locations in the Chicago area.
At the end of 2018, Thompson decided to create a radical change to his already-successful ramen empire. He moved from casual counter service to a full-service model.
“An enhanced, all-encompassing menu was the appropriate next step in our Furious (R)evolution,” says Executive Chef and Partner Shin Thompson. “I am constantly on the lookout for exciting and new ways to experience food, and this menu really showcases a different side to my cooking, combining traditional Japanese flavors with modern touches that are authentically Furious Spoon. We couldn’t be more excited for our guests to come in and experience it themselves.”
The new concept now comes with a new menu, including ten inviting appetizers and an expanded selection of rice bowls for those who prefer a different carb to ramen noodles. According to Thompson, “Now that we have shifted to full-service, guests have more time to fully immerse themselves into the Furious Spoon concept. Our menu format will continue to showcase the latest in Japanese cuisine, while tying back to my traditional roots.”
I was recently invited to the Wicker Park location (1571 North Milwaukee) to sample some of the new menu items. On the Starter menu, I highly recommend the Oshinko Pickles. Not only are they delightfully colorful, they are absolutely delicious. It’s a combination of pickled vegetables including daikon radish, eggplant, and cucumber. The different pickling styles give an array of slightly sweet to savory. The portion size is slightly smaller than I had anticipated, so it can work either as an appetizer for one, or a shareable appetizer for two people if you are ordering something else. Another standout appetizer is the Panko-Crusted Crab Bomb. This is a huge lump crab cake, breaded with panko, deep fried, and served with scallion aioli. This is definitely a shareable item and it one delicious version of a crab cake.
The new menu offers a selection of Rice Bowls for those who prefer a different carb, but the core of Furious Spoon is, of course, ramen. The ramen bowls are never dull, and always have a surprising mélange of flavors that all seem to come together beautifully. If you’re a brave fan of spicy food, you can substitute the chili-infused noodles for any of the ramen bowls.
One of Chef Thompson’s signature dishes, The Furious, lists spicy miso pork broth, house-made chashu, steamed chicken & pork dumplings, crispy shallots, garlic relish, marinated mushrooms, fury sauce, and a poached egg. I was warned, however, that this is one for fans of heat. Since I am a wimp when it comes to hot food, I declined this one – but it gets high praise from everyone I know who likes a little heat with their food.
I opted for the Shoyu, a more traditional bowl. This one comes with soy tonkostsu broth, house-made chashu, marinated mushrooms, bean sprouts, nori, and naruto. I decided to take the “Level Up” option and added the egg and garlic relish. Wow! I am not normally a huge fan of ramen (full disclosure there) but this changed my mind. The broth was densely flavorful, perfectly cooked noodles, and the combination of flavors was superb.
For vegans, Furious Spoon is a stand-out option. There are numerous vegetarian options, and many of them list exactly what modification would make them vegan. Since opening in 2015, customers have asked about a vegan-friendly ramen and after a year in the kitchen, Shin Thompson perfected a vegan-friendly broth served in the Veggie Explosion bowl. This one has vegan miso broth, chili-marinated cabbage, sautéed ginger carrots, pickled shimeji mushrooms, roasted garlic, and a poached egg. To make it vegan, simply omit the mushrooms and egg. Voilà! A hearty, satisfying vegan meal – something that seems surprisingly hard to find in Chicago these days.
On the beverage menu, Furious Spoons lists a draft beer titled “Give Furiously Lager.” This is an unfiltered Japanese-style lager crafted in partnership with Empirical Brewery. A portion of the proceeds from every glass goes to a “charity of the month.” For May 2019, that charity is Howard Brown Health, but the recipient changes monthly. Be sure to ask your server for the details.
Speaking of Howard Brown Health . . .
Furious Spoon is excited to bring back its specialty Pride Bowl in partnership with Howard Brown Health for the month of June. The colorful ramen creation is meant to showcase the LGBTQ flag, paying homage to Chicago’s community during the celebratory month with delicious flare.
Created by Executive Chef Shin Thompson, the limited-time Pride Bowl features chili-infused noodles, veggie broth, spicy miso, Fresno chilies, sweet chili shrimp, sweet corn, scallions and Napa cabbage. The ingredients represent all colors of the rainbow, giving diners the chance to slurp for a good cause. Proceeds from every bowl will be donated to Howard Brown Health, which aims to eliminate disparities in healthcare experienced by the LGBTQ community through research, education and promotion of health and wellness services.
The Pride Bowl will be available at all Furious Spoon locations except Revival Food Hall and Wells Street Market, including Wicker Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Andersonville, Evanston and Lakeview.
Also, Furious Spoon has one of the best lunch deals in town. For $14.95 you get the choice of a smaller portion of any signature ramen bowls (except for Dynamo Shrimp), A side of either Spring Roll or Steamed Dumplings, steamed rice, spicy marinated cucumbers, and a soft drink. This special is available from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Friday.