If you were craving generous bowls of rich, steaming noodle soup and happened to be in Prospect Heights last night, were you ever in luck. The much-anticipated Chuko, a new ramen restaurant by David Koons and Jamison Blankenship, the former executive sous chef and chef de cuisine, respectively, at Morimoto, finally — quietly — opened its doors.
There is no liquor license yet, but opening night was still busy, with folks waiting up to an hour for a table. On the menu were a handful of appetizers, including these lightly fried shishito peppers ($6), slick and salted and, as is their nature, spicy about a tenth of the time.
The requisite slider is veggie-friendly here. It’s a fried green tomato, breaded and crispy, topped with a creamy tofu slaw, and piled onto a mini potato bun ($5). It’s a decent bite, though you want more of the under-ripe tomato taste to shine through all the bread. Still, the excellent peppers and OK slider are just meant to warm you up for the main event: rich, satisfying ramen.
There were three options ($12 each); we had two: a miso ramen with chicken and a pork broth ramen with, well, more pork. The miso looks thicker than it is, opaque in the bowl, and all umami in the mouth. It’s laden with chunks of the tenderest chicken and fresh corn bits, making it somewhat chowder-esque. A poached egg propped on top oozes deep yellow yolk for a moment after your break it until the yolk cooks in the broth. It was the favorite at the table — ours and the one next to us.
The pork ramen has a slightly oilier, meatier broth, with fatty pieces of caramelized pork and mustard greens tossed in. The egg is soft-boiled in this version, tempering the fatty, chewy pork pieces. The noodles in each are firm through to the last spoonful. Considering this was the first night of hopefully hundreds, applause was in order. We’ll save the kanpais for when they have something stiffer to toast with.