This week Pete Wells reviews Long Island City's hottest new ramen shop, Mu Ramen. In a way, as he starts out by saying, it's not the first time he's done so. A little over a year ago, when chef Joshua Smookler and wife Heidy were still operating Mu as a pop-up out of a bagel shop, Wells named its tonkotsu the best ramen in the city. Shortly after, the duo shut down their pop-up, at the time telling Eater that they'd been "overwhelmed" by demand following Wells declaration. The critic got a lot of flack for "killing" the pop-up, but now says that Smookler tells him the main reason for shutting down the pop-up was because, having just signed the lease on a permanent space, he was afraid "the government finding out what we were doing" and causing trouble for the brick-and-mortar.
Wells may or may not have accelerated that decision, but in any case, he's happy that Mu is back. He still loves the soup, but now there are many other dishes to win him over too:
One of the best things to eat at Mu comes not from the streets of Tokyo, where Mr. Smookler has never been, but from his apartment, where he and his wife steam mussels when friends come for dinner. At the restaurant, he cooks clams instead, spooning a hypnotically aromatic saffron aioli over them. Then the dish takes a leap that makes no sense until you try it: You pick up a clam and scoop up some Vietnamese nuoc cham with the shell. Why the flowery musk of saffron reacts so well to lime and fish sauce I cannot say.
The space is "civilized," few dishes fall flat, and Wells gives the restaurant two stars.