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. 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. 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.I 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
I’m a big fan of Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar. Because (a) good sushi is damn expensive in New York, a city with no Sugarfish [UPDATE: Sugarfish is now open, woot!], and (b) I’ve had two amazing rounds of omakase at this tiny Upper East Side chef’s counter at a pretty reasonable price point.The reservation process used to be really confusing, done only by phone and notebook and handled by Chef Toshio’s wife. Since then, they’ve migrated to online reservations (much better, much easier). There are three seatings per night, at 6pm, 7:30pm, and 9pm. When we arrived, we found our places around the cozy bar (you sit by the order your group arrives prior to the seating).
The rules of the house are posted:
A plate of salmon in vinegar to start, with a dab of wasabi.A dish of scallop sashimi. Gloriously sweet. After this, the omakase portion started. The first piece was fluke cured with kelp, with a fleeting green brininess. Chef Toshio’s rice skews a bit toward vinegar, but only lightly. Next up, winter Spanish mackerel with a bit of ginger and scallion. Mackerel’s never been my favorite fish (especially cooked), but the curing process takes a bit of that funky fishiness out and the ginger provides ample balance.Marinated tuna, superbly tender for akami. Shrimp, creamy and sweet.Salmon, with a thin sheet of kelp (?). White albacore with moro miso.An annotated map of where the best Japanese seafood is found. Take note. Continue reading →
Unimpressed with the buffet lunch offerings on the first day of the Wharton Forum in Tokyo, Lucas and I walked around Marunouchi in search of Sushidokoro Jun, a tidy and cheerful sushi restaurant in the basement floor of one of Mitsubishi’s Chiyoda corporate office buildings.
We got (and shared) different assorted nigiri sets, one of which Lucas explained used somewhat more premium fish and whatnot. To an extent I could taste the difference, more so in the freshness, since not all the toppings were alike or comparable. We added a bowl of miso soup each.
The last few individual pieces were some of my favorite, apart from the usual fatty suspects (salmon, toro). The briny pop of salmon roe, the buttery scallop, and the lightness of the eel all contributed to pleasant bites.
This was my first sushi experience in Japan, and though it was in the context of a business lunch atmosphere (and not a full-scale omakase dinner), I quite enjoyed the meal in whole. The diverse offerings were helpful for my curiosity to try a wide range of relatively high-quality nigiri. If anything, the setting was a bit sterile in retrospect, but again, the in-and-out business lunch aspect of our meal allowed us to largely overlook that. Plus, with the reasonably-priced lunch sets, we weren’t really paying for the ambiance.
So it was a good start to eating raw fish in Japan.