Mu Ramen

Long Island City isn’t the easiest place to get to, and it’s not a food destination per se.  Some places serve as a good reason to venture out to a neighborhood less traveled.  Mu Ramen is one of those places.

I remember visiting them years ago when they were just a pop-up inside of a Long Island City bagel shop in some warehouse-y stretch by the water, and there was already this rare sense of comfort and wonder about the food.  Ippudo is reliable and reliably busy, Setagaya is a dive, Takashi is pure indulgence – those ramen spots have their feel and familiarity.  Mu has a sense of refinement, sureness about its craft, and confidence in turning up the details and luxury in its versions of things you think you know.

Look at the beautiful uni.  And ikura.  And under that pile of rich umami goodness some nori rice and spicy tuna and rice.  Fresh AF.Houseofhaos Mu Ramen LIC New York Uni Ikura Rice And fried chicken wings stuffed with foie gras.  A little decadent, delightfully crispy without being gummy or over-breaded or oily.  A little dangerous to bite into because the foie gras is pretty hot.  Delicious though.Houseofhaos Mu Ramen LIC New York Foie Gras Stuffed Chicken Wings This deeply satisfying shoyu duck broth.  So good.  Interesting to have a non-chicken clear broth.  The duck broth is gorgeously rich without being fatty, bright and complex, something you just want to keep sipping on a chilly day.  The runny egg, creamy, just melts in your mouth.Houseofhaos Mu Ramen LIC New York Duck Broth Shoyu house-of-haos-mu-ramen-lic-shoyu-duck-closeupI don’t remember what this tonkotsu-looking bowl was – maybe the Mu Ramen?  At that point, my mind was already a little mushy from deliciousness.


Mu Ramen (menu)
1209 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101

Lunch at Pok Pok – Brooklyn, NYC

On a sunny summer day, my sister and I ventured to Pok Pok, Andy Ricker’s Brooklyn homage to Thai food, a passion that I can absolutely identify with.  There are but a few things in life that I appreciate, and have felt so earnestly, as the wholeheartedness and humility of Thai hospitality.  If I can make a caricature out of it, permit me to do so.

I attended a cooking class with Chef Ricker, and with the same warmth that certain Thai establishments exude through their hospitality, I felt like he had the same intensity and spirit in his dedication to and study of (and love for) Thai cuisine.  This dude was knowledgeable and serious about his Thai food.  In a way, it’s refreshing to see that – usually you see guys go off to Italy or Lyon and come back with this repertoire and adherence to certain European traditions, but here was a dude that slums it to the dirt roads and backwoods and beaches of Thailand to bring back some crazy recipes and preparations that rock my mouth with flavor and spice.

We started with some refreshing drinking vinegars, tart, syrupy concoctions topped with soda.  There are, like, 25 flavors to choose from, so you’ll find something.  Be warned though, the vinegar part is no joke.House of Haos Pok Pok Brooklyn NYC Drinking Vinegar A duck salad, with specks of toasted rice to add a heavy crunch to the funkiness of raw onions and duck liver and duck skin.House of Haos Pok Pok Brooklyn NYC Duck Larb Ike’s fish sauce wings.  Phenomenal.  Coated with tangy, sugary, spicy sauce and flecks of crispy garlic.House of Haos Pok Pok Brooklyn NYC Fish Sauce Chicken Wings Smoky slow-cooked pork ribs.  In retrospect, I would’ve rather tried something else, perhaps a fish, but these were pretty tasty just the same.House of Haos Pok Pok Brooklyn NYC Pork RibsPok Pok NYC
117 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
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Uptown Funk – Dinosaur BBQ, Harlem, NYC

Dinosaur BBQ is a bit out of the way, at an oddly criss-crossing corner of 125th St in Harlem near the Westside Highway.  The squat brick building that houses the restaurant is unremarkable but expansive, so even though it was busy (2 hour wait) when we visited, it doesn’t feel like a crush of bodies.  Very much the opposite, actually: a fun, lively space.  Plus, we didn’t have to tough out the two hours, as we lucked into two comfortable seats at the end of the bar just as we’d put our name on the waitlist, with a prime view of the kitchen and passe.

House of Haos Dinosaur BBQ Harlem NYC Menu Kitchen House of Haos Dinosaur BBQ Harlem NYC Sauce A sweet tea, of course.House of Haos Dinosaur BBQ Harlem NYC Sweet Tea Meaty BBQ wings.  The skin, gorgeously charred, is deceptively crispy – I expected that bitter smokiness, but mostly just texture, and plenty of flavor.House of Haos Dinosaur BBQ Harlem NYC Chicken Wings Continue reading

Yakitori Tori Shin – New York

Funnily enough, on the night where the otherwise fantastic folks at Tanoshi bungled my reservation, we took a brisk walk some blocks down to another well-regarded Japanese restaurant in the Upper East Side: Yakitori Tori Shin.  Michelin-starred yakitori is a strange concept in New York, if only because it’s hard to place among the endless European and New American restaurants that otherwise populate the list.  High-end sushi, sure, but yakitori?  Drinking food?  But this is carefully-sourced drinking food, with Himalayan rock salt at the bar and stuff flown in from Japan.  So, hell yes.

Despite (or perhaps due to) its placement in a nondescript block of the mid-sixties, Tori Shin is a cozy haven of sake-lubricated Japanese suits and my Asian-food-aficionado brethren luxuriating in their charcoal-haze element, slurping and glass-clinking and opining and laughing their way to a good night.

Tori Shin’s goods were simple, straightforward, well-made, crisped and burnt when they should have been, equally so for the tender and buttery.

A bowl of daikon and cucumbers. House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Pickles Quail eggs, lightly crisped.House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Quail Eggs Shishito peppers, with a healthy char.House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Shishito Peppers These spicy fried chicken wings weren’t from the grill, but I’m not complaining. House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Chicken Wings Grilled chicken skins.  One of my favorite yakitori dishes, that wonderful chicken proxy to bacon, glorious compressed sheets of cracklin’.House of Haos Yakitori Tori Shin Upper East Side NYC New York City Chicken Skin Continue reading

Lunch at Mission Cantina – Lower East Side, NYC

A few weeks after Mission Cantina opened, my friend Mimi and I headed over to try out Danny Bowien’s take on another cuisine that had been in many ways changed through its Americanization – Mexican food.  At that point, and as of this blog post, Mission Chinese Food is still closed (except for the erstwhile pop-up appearance), so Mission Cantina is the closest place to experience Chef Bowien’s food.

First dish, shrimp chips, chicharrones, and guac.  Fresh chicharrones.  My inner fatty could not be happier.  I’m not a huge fan of the thick Mexican tortilla chips, the crunch is a little too sturdy for me, which is why the chicharrones, dusted with seasoning, were a fantastic change-up.  I’ve also eaten a good amount of pork rinds in my life, so I’m already that sort of degenerate.  I didn’t need a push to go for something like this. House of Haos Mission Cantina Lower East Side NYC New York Chicharrons GuacamoleHouse of Haos Mission Cantina NYC Chicharrones We also got an order of chicken wings, with mole spices, chili vinegar, sesame, and crema. The cucumber strips didn’t really add much but the wings were great, the skin still crisp under that sauce, the mole spices a flavorful, slow-building heat.House of Haos Mission Cantina Lower East Side NYC New York Chicken WingsWe split a pair of tacos, one al pastor (on the left) and one carnitas (right).  Frankly, these didn’t bowl me over, although the al pastor was well-seasoned and the pickled pineapple a nice touch.  We sat by the assembly line that was churning out fresh corn tortillas, and they tasted pretty solid.  But there’s something about food truck charm that I miss about tacos, and these just didn’t have it.House of Haos Mission Cantina Lower East Side NYC New York Tacos Al Pastor Carnitas
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Colonel Sanders in Shanghai

Sometimes, you just want fast food.  Most of those times, you’re at the airport.  Other times, it’s after 2am and since there’s fast food delivery in Shanghai, a little three-piece meal can’t hurt.  But sometimes, you’re walking back to your apartment from morning Chinese classes and trying to decide what to have for lunch.

And then you see this friendly face:

The Colonel

I almost never go to KFC in the States, mostly because I’m not a fan of original recipe chicken.  I know, I know – eleven secret herbs and spices, blah blah blah.  Popeye’s was always more my jam, and although in China you can’t find any butter-laden biscuits, the spicy wings at KFC are much more akin to the old Popeye’s style.

For all my passion for food, every once in a while I meet somebody who acts really shocked and appalled when I profess my love for fast food (McDonald’s, breakfast sandwiches, and fried chicken in particular).  Well, if loving fried processed and genetically modified chicken (if it’s even chicken) is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

Spicy wings

Popcorn Chicken

Corn Salad

French Fries

Corn Salad (action shot!)

Chicken wing in Sriracha and honey (action shot!)

The meal, including a very flat medium Pepsi that I didn’t drink, ran about 50RMB, or a little under US$8.  They were out of the Beijing-style chicken wraps, which is another tasty treat on their China-fied menu.  Fast food here isn’t as cheap as it used to be, as obvious a development as that may seem, especially compared to some really good local fare that runs for about half that.  But it’s also been interesting to see how the menu has completely evolved from when I first started visiting China in the early 2000s, when the menu was more or less fried chicken and sandwiches.  Now, KFC has Chinese-style breakfast items, rice dishes, porridge, you name it – and it’s still kicking McDonald’s ass in China, from what I can tell.

768 Changde Lu
Jing’an, Shanghai