Friday, October 20, 2017
Even in noodle blogging quasi-semi-retirement, there was no way I could get through a road trip to New York City, upstate NY and Vermont without a noodle joint screaming for my attention, if not necessarily my approval. The EAT ME! in this instance came from Mu Ramen in Long Island City.
Mu Ramen, of course, is the enterprise that Pete Wells put at the top of his New York ramen list when it was but a pop-up inside a bagel shop, and it kept the plaudits coming after becoming (quite literally) a brick-and-mortar establishment. Were I a rameniac, which I am not, this would have drawn me to the place in a New York minute, but a second, more practical reason conspired to draw me there: Mu Ramen is a mere 5 minute walk from my daughter's railroad flat where I was staying.
There was a fifteen-minute wait for seats at the communal table on a Wednesday night when we arrived at 7:15. As expected, they were out of their limited-production house ramen. Rachel ordered the tonkotsu and I the spicy miso ramen. We also ordered a "Okonomiyaki" which was actually four slices of a conventional pancake topped with foie gras-infused maple syrup and trout. The chef worked under Thomas Keller at Per Se and likes his quotation marks.
My daughter's tonkotsu ramen (above) came with fine, straight noodles in a smooth, satisfying broth, and hog jowl instead of the more familiar melt-in-the-mouth chashu, a variant I, for one, appreciated (she gave me a sample bite). My spicy miso came with thicker, curly noodles and pork which had hacked (but not minced). The broth wasn't particularly spicy, but the use of red miso added to the complexity.
I liked Mu Ramen. If I were to reach for a superlative, I'd say it was probably the loudest ramen bar I have ever been in, with jazz and pop music bouncing off the brick-and-mortar walls and the joyful noise of conversation trying to rise above. No faux contemplative-ness to the noodle slurping here. Perhaps the no-reservation and cash-only policies have also served to de-hipsterfy the experience at Mu, leaving it one of simply enjoying the fare, which is as good and inventive as that of any ramen-ya I have visited.
Now, if one only could pick up some bagels on the way out. Nu?