Mu Ramen, Long Island City’s Hottest Ramen Shop, Now Takes Reservations
The story of Mu Ramen, surely one of the most eagerly anticipated restaurant openings of the season, is worth retelling. About a year ago Joshua and Heidy Smookler opened up a six-seat, after-hours ramen shop in the back of Bricktown Bagels, an unassuming spot owned by a friend in the couple's Long Island City neighborhood. There was zero hype about the venture, all just word of mouth… until Pete Wells of the New York Times put it at the very top of his list of favorite bowls of ramen in the city. Most of us were like "WHO Ramen?!?!", demand quickly outpaced supply, and the swamped Smooklers shut it down. There's a very happy ending though! After a frustrating series of delays, the new Mu Ramen has finally opened on Jackson Avenue in LIC, right near both the 7 and G trains, and though the crowds have been plentiful, it's actually not impossible to get a same-day reservation or even snag a seat as walk-in. I went the other night; here's the full scoop…
Communal Eating Made Comfy
The design of Mu Ramen is striking and comfortable, with one large communal table, complete with miniature rock gardens embedded into the middle, dominating the room, plus a four-top up front and then five or six stools at the bar overlooking the kitchen in the back. The Smooklers have graciously placed benches and allowed for standing areas around the edges of the room, for those willing to wait for what have been reported to be two hours or more for a seat. Even more graciously, they now take reservations every day, by phone, starting promptly at 3:00, for that night's service only. The number's at the bottom of this post, and my experience went like this: called a dozen times between 3:00 and 3:04, got a busy signal, gave up, called again about 20 minutes later, got through, got a seat. Your results may vary.
Real Ramen for Real Ramen Eaters
So the big question is, is Mu Ramen worth it? For NYC ramen completists, the answer is definitely yes. Because although I'm not convinced that a bowl of the signature Mu Ramen is necessarily better than what you'll eat at Ippudo, or Ivan Ramen, or even Hde-Chan, it certainly is really good, and different enough to deserve a "destination spot" tag. Smookler's secret is the inclusion of oxtail and bone marrow into his broth, which he boils on high for almost full day before serving, resulting in an intense beefiness not often (not ever?) found at noodle joints. Adding fatty, rich brisket instead of the usual pork belly also helps. Oh and Smookler throws in some half-sour pickles for good measure. It doesn't taste like a gimmick though, and the noodles themselves are excellent, and generously laden. There are three other, more traditional ramen options here as well.
What To Eat at Mu Ramen? Everything
But if beefy broth and top-notch noodles are the main reason for Manhattanites to trek out over to LIC, the rest of the Mu Ramen menu is also pretty good. The "U & I", for example, is like a deconstructed sushi roll, one of those complicated ones, with piles of spicy tuna, salmon roe, and uni placed atop sticky rice and served with nori. It'd be difficult to mess up a dish like this, and they don't. Also interesting though slightly–and surprisingly–under-seasoned was the Tebasaki Gyoza, a pair of deep-fried chicken wings stuffed-to-bursting with foie gras. You also can get more familiar snacks here, like fried shishito peppers, and edame.
For Menu and More Information on Mu Ramen
Mu Ramen is located in Long Island City, on Jackson Avenue between 47th Road and 48th Avenue, and is open Monday through Saturday from 5:30 to 10:00. Same-day reservations can be had by calling 917-868-8903, starting at 3:00. "Secret" tip: if the lamp hanging over the front door is burning yellow, that means there are no seats immediately available; if it's blue, you'll be seated right away. For more information and to see the complete Mu Ramen menu, see here.