With Kickstarter funding nearly complete, Furious Spoon, Shin Thompson's upcoming Wicker Park ramen shop he's working on with Mario Ponce and Anshul Mangal (Takito Kitchen, Bar Takito), is on track for an anticipated February opening. Thompson plans on emulating the noodle shops of Japan, but particularly the one that his grandfather ran.
"It's going to have a rustic, old school Japanese look to it. We may have some elements of shou-sugi-ban (burnt Japanese cedar) that you see on the siding of houses. It's essentially fireproof because it's already been charred and it has a real cool look to it," Thompson says. There will also be rusted steel elements as well as a vintage noodle maker that arrived this past Friday.
"The important thing is the noodle maker," he states. "There is a fair amount of labor, but I think we're going to mitigate that by having a high volume of customers." Another bonus for guests is that those at the ramen bar will be able to see the noodles being made.
At a preview dinner last night in the South Loop home of Ponce, Thompson laid out three types of ramen for guests to sample: miso, shoyu and vegetable. Attendees, some of whom were there as potential investors, were encouraged to add a hot sauce made with apples and a small plate of pickles to their bowls. Apples, it turns out, will play an important part at Furious Spoon. "Apples are an ingredient that my grandfather used in his shop. It's uncommon (even in Japan), but it's not unheard of."
He's planning on keeping the menu simple, serving four ramen, along with a rice bowl (that may include beef) and handmade gyoza. The "furious" in Furious Spoon is as much a suggestion of how to eat the ramen (the way it is eaten in Tokyo) as it is a necessity. After serving, those noodles are still cooking and can overcook if not eaten quickly.
The quick service process, along with prices (sizable bowls of ramen will cost between $7 to $8) will be the key that differentiates himself from his competition, he believes.
Thompson has been spending two to three days per week at renowned ramen shop Santouka inside the Mitsuwa marketplace in Arlington Heights, "seeing how they put out 700 bowls a day" and learning a great deal about efficiency. "It's (easy) to make one good bowl of ramen, but to do it over and over again consistently for hundreds of people a day...that's the number one thing (I've learned)." He plans on spending a few more weeks at Santouka before staff training begins in January.