On a hot summer day, the last thing I want to eat is a bowl of ramen, especially one with a thick tonkotsu broth. But it’s not everyday that I’m in Long Island City, Queens, and I figured I should take advantage of my trip out here and stop by the super popular Mu Ramen.
Luckily, it seemed like visiting during the ramen off-season was a good call, and we only waited 30 minutes on a Sunday at 6:30. (The restaurant doesn’t take any reservations other than those for the Chef’s Counter tasting dinner.) We were pretty efficient in our approach to ordering–going just for the restaurant’s signature dishes, the “okonomiyaki” and the house bowl of Mu ramen.
I now understand why the “okonomiyaki” was listed in quotes. It really has nothing in common with its Japanese roots. The Japanese version reminds me of a big, messy omelette, but Mu Ramen’s is like the Kendall Jenner of the Kardashians, beautiful and refined in a line of trashy vixens. These petite, silver dollar pancakes were more like sweet and fluffy corncake blinis, topped with some smoked fish and salty roe, and wearing a wreath of orange and yellow flowers. There was some depth to this Instagram beauty, luckily, and it was a perfect, dense bite that was filling and fulfilling because of the way it engaged all of the senses.
The Mu ramen also defied expectations, as the oxtail and bone marrow-based broth was actually of a lighter weight than the cloudy, heavy soups that seem to be all the rage. Rebellion is a recurring theme here, as the Mu ramen did a lot of things differently from a traditional ramen. Instead of a pork chashu, a brisket was used, a decision I didn’t totally agree with, as I felt this cut of meat was a little too lean and stringy for the purposes of ramen consumption. The pickled cucumbers were unexpected, adding a tang that brightened up the broth, and bringing some good texture to the dish. I thought the thin al dente noodles were perfect, and they could do no wrong wrapped around my chopsticks with a little bit of everything in between.
From the few things I’ve had so far, Mu Ramen isn’t trying to make a classic bowl of ramen noodles. It experiments with embellishments you wouldn’t have considered, and that seems to be paying off. This little preview was such a tease, I’ll have to come back for the proper 11-course tasting menu and stay for the whole show.
12-09 Jackson Ave (between 47th Rd and 48th Ave)
Long Island City, NY 11101