Mu Ramen. 12-09 Jackson Ave. Queens. NYC

Mu has been at the forefront of heavy investment in Long Island City, a couple of blocks away from MoMa PS1. There are still only a small handful of eateries in what was called a food desert just three years ago, with Bierocracy and a random cupcake shop just a few yards away. This tiny ramen joint still gets long queues but on the snowy night we went it only took 20 minutes to get seated. There is no takeout or doggie bags – the integrity of the noodles and broth is that important. The U & I, an uni dish with maguro and ikura, is usually sold out early so we were lucky to get it: a small wooden bowl with well-balanced portions of rice and fish to be scooped up ‘like ice-cream’ with a wooden teaspoon. Delightful, but dear at $22.
The ‘gyoza’ – chicken wings stuffed with foie gras – were perfectly fine, rich and raunchy ($14), but the ‘okonomiyaki’ were American-style mini scallion pancakes topped with trout and tobiko, which resembled something a well-heeled millennial might concoct with leftovers for Sunday brunch.
All this tapas-crapshooting left us yearning for good ramen, and the signature oxtail and bone marrow Mu Ramen ($18) did not disappoint. A thick broth that had obviously taken lots of work to get to that consistency, excellent cuts of brisket (only 3 tiny pieces though) and the spongiest, bounciest noodles this side of the East River. The Spicy Miso ramen ($15) is just as good, with its broth silkier and its noodles of the thicker variety.
The atmosphere here is great, with 90s hiphop cranked up and lighting kept at a medium burn – sit at the counter or around a large central table. Service was informative, but having a ‘featured dish’ that still appeared on the menu being recommended by both the server and the head chef made me a tad suspicious; to hear it was clams on a Blizzardy Sunday night of a weekend of travel bans made complete sense. For the first time in NYC we also heard that we could only pay our bill with a maximum of 2 credit cards. Pretentious and fussy, and all this on the LIC side of Queens.

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Subway: 21 Street Van Alst (G), Hunters Point Av (7)

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Lucy’s Vietnamese Kitchen. 262 Irving Ave. Bushwick, Brooklyn. NYC.

This tiny eatery usually has four choices on its menu, two of which are banh mi and two of which are phở. Lemongrass chicken or tofu, or the wonderful smoked brisket of beef. Funky additions for Brooklyn palates include garlic aioli smeared in the baguettes, squirts of sriracha, and jalapeños in the mix. Prices are reasonable, but definitely not as cheap as your regular Viet phở joint – here it’s more like $8 for a tofu sarnie or $12 for a beef soup. There’s one red picnic table that can seat about 8, and service has been uneven but they’re definitely doing a brisk trade in delivery and takeout; I can’t think of a worse way to eat phở than out of a mini plastic bucket, though. So just take a seat and make space for others.

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Subway: Myrtle-Wyckoff L/M

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