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.

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

Afuri – Late Nite Ramen in Ebisu

After a seemingly unending bus ride into Tokyo from Narita, I set foot in brightly-lit Shinjuku, my first foray into the mysterious and alluring destination of Japan.  I waited for my friend Lucas, whose apartment in Ebisu I was crashing.

After navigating through the confusion that is Shinjuku station, we took one of the second-to-last trains to Ebisu.  Apparently the second-to-last trains in Tokyo are different than the last trains in Tokyo.  Slightly lower levels of collective intoxication than the last gasp of degenerates and suits rushing home to avoid having to sleep propped up against a newspaper stand.

I followed Lucas through the narrow Ebisu streets until we got to Afuri, a little ramen shop on a quiet lane.  I was starving, having skipped my onboard meal in favor of this upcoming introduction to Japanese ramen.  Or at least one version of shoyu ramen.

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There’d been a lot of hype building up to this event, from friends and food blogs and anime series and previous trips to Ippudo and Santouka, not to mention late nights of Nissin packets and Shin cups.  Still, in Japan, the feeling I got more often than not was the anxiety from not having nearly enough time to explore and taste all the different masterful incarnations of (fill in the blank).

Like many other ramen shops, we ordered from a vending machine that spits out a ticket based on what the eater selects from the labeled buttons.  Lucas selected a bowl of shoyu ramen with char siu, egg, and bamboo shoots, and for himself a bowl of pork rice.

DSC_0098 DSC_0099The soup was unique, very light but smoky, the same strong smokiness as the pork had.  The egg practically melted in my mouth, in contrast to the freshness and crispness of the greens and bamboo.  I slurped the thin noodles hungrily, happy to finally be at the beginning of the upcoming week and a half of Japanese wanderlusting (and gastronomic bliss).

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