I really dislike eating alone. Really, I do. I mean, I almost never ever order just the one thing, and the stares of judgement and mild disbelief from even the most polite waitstaff when I’m sitting, alone, at a table covered with food…well, even I get embarassed too, sometimes.
But sometimes, when you’re all alone in a strange city, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. And in this case, Mugen Ramen was calling my name.
Mugen Ramen, sister to Robot (a bar that lives right next door to it), is known for their Japas menu (Japanese tapas), and Tsukemen: dry ramen dipped in a thick gravy-like broth, perfect for summer where thick steaming bowls of soups have no place.
But ramen never stands alone. The Japanese, in their infinite wisdom have side dishes to accompany. Because variety is the spice of life, right?
Tsukune, $15, is basically a chicken kofta. Seasoned chicken mince is shaped around a skewer and grilled, and youre encouraged to dip it in a fresh egg yolk. Chicken on chicken action, eyyy!
I also can’t go past shellfish without ordering it, so I order yet another dish to go with my ramen. NO JUDGEMENT.
The Pipi Sake Mushi, $15, was a delightful little pot of buttery clams, much like white wine steamed mussels, buy smallet and, well, Japanese. The sake provided a light astringency that cut through the richness of the butter, and enhanced the sweetness of the juicy juicy clams. Yum.
But the main event: Goma Tsukemen, a thick, salty sesame sauce that coats every strand of the thick ramen noodles. And even for an absolute sodium-fan like me, this was salty. Like screw-your-face-up-dry-your-mouth-out kinda salt levels. Delicious, but halfway through the bowl I was struggling to keep downing it despite the sharp pangs of saltiness on my lips.
Despite the slight seasoning issue – didn’t stop me from eating it all, though! – I really did enjoy the food at Mugen. The basement dining area added to a wonderful underground dining sorta vibe, and well, it just helped me hide from the shame of eating all those dishes by myself.
Service-wise, well, I think there could be some improvements. I made sure to go for a late lunch (2:30pm) on a weekday in order to have my pick of tables, and even though the restaurant was nearly empty, the waitress tried to insist that I sit at the adjacent table to the one I wanted, which was more dimly lit. When I asked why, she said that they might need to seat a larger group and that I might need to move should they need the table back.
Fair enough, though I don’t see why that should happen in an empty restaurant, right? Well, 2 people came along, and then she promptly asked for the table back. At this point, the restaurant was 60% empty!! Even the customers waved me back down and said that they didn’t mind sitting at the next table. I don’t really know what was going on, but it wasn’t necessarily the nicest experience.
But, if you’re not too fussed on service, it’s worth a summer lunch. The food is intensely satisfying, and a classy take on comfort foods. My sorta comfort food, anyway.
Just remember to go with friends. Maybe you’ll get better luck with the tables.