Mu Ramen — the hit LIC ramen shop from Per Se vet Joshua Smookler — will close on June 4th for renovations and reopen on June 15th, doubling its seating capacity from 22 to 46 and adding non-communal tables.
Chef-owner Smookler tells Eater NY that after being open for close to four years, he thinks he now has a better sense of what his diners want at the restaurant, located at at 1209 Jackson Ave. near 48th Avenue.
Apparently, New Yorkers aren’t so into the communal table setup, he says: Smookler has decided to convert the waiting area of the restaurant into additional dining space. A reservations system will also be added. When Mu Ramen reopens in mid-June, most of the tables will be used for those reservation, and a remaining communal table will be for walk-in diners.
Mu Ramen will also been undergoing a slight shift in scope: “We’re starting to become more of a restaurant than a ramen shop,” he says. The non-ramen offerings at the restaurant will increase from a smattering of appetizers to include more substantial non-ramen entrees, like a wagyu ribeye with fries and a cheeseburger made with dry-aged beef and caramelized onion. The restaurant will also serve pasta and seasonal fish dishes, like a halibut with bonito butter.
And also as part of this shift, Smookler is finally fulfilling an idea he’s had since 2014: tonkotsu ramen with broth from Iberian pigs, considered the source of one of the best hams in the world. About a month ago, the restaurant swapped the name of the signature bowl to “The Flying Pig,” which has both the Iberian pig bone broth and jamon Iberico on top. It costs $21, and for an up-charge, the ramen can come with jamon Iberico de bellota, a top-tier cured ham aged for at least three years.
“I didn’t want to be a traditional ramen shop where everything is done with Japanese ingredients,” he says of his vision when opening Mu Ramen. But in 2014, he ran into an obstacle with the bones for the broth; the USDA doesn’t allow raw pork bones to be imported from Spain. Smookler had trouble finding a supplier in the U.S.
He’s now using bones from Acornseekers, a pig farming group that flew 200 Iberian pigs across the ocean to NYC and then drove them to outside of Austin. Though he’s been in talks with the group since 2014, he only recently has been able to secure the bones he needs to make Mu Ramen’s new ramen.
But with this change, Smookler had other news — Ravenswood Tavern, a planned Long Island City restaurant with a meat focus, is no longer happening after the landlord backed out of the deal.
Mu Ramen reopens with its expanded space and menu on June 15th. A new location, called MuVa, is also slated to open in northern Virginia in mid-June.