A few weeks ago, my GI system played temporary residence to a curvy little invader named Campylobacter. The only remarkable thing about his visit was that he overstayed his welcome by many days; other visitors of his ilk usually respect a 48-hour window. While I’m a big fan of ginger ale, white bread, bananas, and rice, it got a little tiresome. So, when my doctor told me that it was perfectly acceptable to load up on Imodium to get back to work, I took that as also meaning I could start eating whatever I wanted.
First day back at the office included a post-work visit to the much ballyhooed Mu Ramen in Long Island City, Queens. Everything I’ve read makes it sound like its place is at or near the top of the NYC ramen scene. It does not hold that place for me based on my visit. Perhaps a subpar experience was inevitable with the food poisoning cloud above me. Considering the mistakes were so easily correctable, however, I cannot go with this reasoning.
As it was a Tuesday, I did not have a problem making a reservation for myself when the phone lines opened up in the afternoon. I knew that a reservation for one was probably unnecessary, but given that I had no certainty that my guest hadn’t left yet, I did not want to take chances with anything. Saddling up to the bar, I was so excited to fill my belly with exciting flavours and hot broth. My appetite was ready, and after a weekend of spending almost no money (besides on fancy French refined white-flour bread), my wallet was ready as well. An uni rice bowl starter is all over Instagram but all that was on offer intrigued me. The first mistake of the night was when I asked the server about the size of the starters, inquiring as to which might be more appropriate for one. None, really, she answered. Maybe the edamame, but the ramen should suffice. My question and manner should have clearly indicated to her that I wanted an appetizer, but her half-astonished look and response clearly indicated to me that I was on my own for figuring that out. I wasn’t getting edamame. I was still a bit tentative about my stomach, so I thought the uni bowl might not be the best choice and went with the mussels. They usually are not my thing, but I wanted them more than the okonomiyaki. Even more, I wanted to prove my server wrong. Why she wouldn’t want my tab to be larger is beyond me.
The mussels were fantastic. Plump and fresh and fragrant. The spicy and light dipping sauce was perfect. I finished off the whole bowl… the bowl she had told me was more than enough for two people.
I’m sure I will be criticized for choosing the chicken ramen and not the namesake bowl with brisket, the spicy miso, or the rich tonkotsu, but hey, I like chicken ramen. And if I was still sick, a bowl of chicken noodle soup was probably most appropriate for the evening.
First off, this was not the giant bowl of noodles that would satisfy my appetite as promised. It was no bigger or smaller than any other ramen in the city I’ve had. Secondly, the broth was not hot enough. Thirdly, the confit chicken was cold in spots. There is nothing I dislike more than soup that is not hot enough, especially in the case of ramen, when the tendency is to eat the noodles first and then finish off with the broth. I should have commented, but didn’t. The energy in the kitchen before me was low despite a full house, and I didn’t want to make waves with a server who already seemed perturbed by my questions. The saddest part is that everything in the bowl tasted really good. If the temperature had been correct, I probably would be on the Mu bandwagon, too. I am not, though. For the price and distance, it is unnecessary for me to return. I would rather have the ease of getting a seat at the Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop or the close proximity to excellent bowls from Ippudo or Totto. I’m sure Campy would agree.