Cross-posted from Calgary is Awesome
Usually when people think of ramen, they think of 99-cent (or less) bricks of tightly coiled, pre-fried noodles served in a broth made with chemically-loaded salt. "Real" ramen is a completely different story - like the better-known Vietnamese pho noodles, the secret is in the broth, and in Japan, each region has its own specialty. In Kyushu, the island in the south, pork bones are boiled down to make tonkotsu ramen, while in Hokkaido, the island to the north, they make a miso-based broth. The noodles are then topped with a variety of vegetables and meats, with the most common being seaweed, scallions, corn and thinly-sliced barbecued pork called chashu, which takes its name from Chinese BBQ pork, char siu (叉燒). Muku, Globefish's sister restaurant occupying the latter's original space on 14th St, aims to bring all these different flavour combinations to Calgarians.
Despite my family's negative opinion of Globefish, my brother likes Muku, and recommended that we all go when we had extended family visiting this weekend. The space is small and the restaurant appears to be used to groups of 2-4, max. Our "large" group of seven appeared to stress the staff out and there were a few order mixups and general slow service as a result.
Like Globefish, Muku tries to make dining there a friendly experience, with a menu filled with illustrations. Even the bottles of shichimi togarashi, the seven-spice blend usually used to top Japanese noodles, were labelled with all of its components.
Unlike Globefish, however, Muku's small kitchen prevents it from stocking many ingredients, so its menu contains a few simple appetizers then numerous permutations of the same few star ingredients - tonkotsu, miso and shoyu broths, ramen noodles, rice, assorted vegetables, assorted seafood, sukiyaki beef, teriyaki chicken and chashu. This leads to a few unorthodox items, like chashu rolls and chashu sandwiches.
My very-Chinese family naturally gravitated toward the combos, which offered a fairly large volume of food for a fairly low price ($8.95-$11.95). However, I personally found the food combinations a little weird - most of the combos consisted of a small or large bowl of ramen, a small salad, kobachi (a small "appetizer" of sliced sukiyaki beef) and a side of either a sandwich, chashu rolls or a bowl of sukiyaki rice (carb-loading much?)
I ordered a bowl of miso ramen ($9.95) à la carte, as it sounded like the most vegetable-y ramen of the bunch, with seaweed and grated carrots in addition to the usual corn niblets, baby corn, green onions and chashu slices. The noodles had a nice, springy al dente texture and I loved loading up on the veggies. Unfortunately, the pork was dry and flavourless and the broth was greasy and far too salty - I knew I was going to be in trouble when the miso broth was described in the menu as miso added to their signature pork and beef broth. I also had a chance to try a piece of the chashu roll and was unimpressed as well - the rice lacked the savoury, almost-fishy flavour of good sushi rice and seemed to be something that was thrown on the menu just to help use up the chashu.
Muku is a great concept for a pho-dominant city like Calgary and I'm sure many will welcome trying something new in the small, intimate space. However, I think they have lots of work to do before I will be going back.
326 14 St NW
Open Tues-Sat 11:30-2:30 for lunch and 5-9 for dinner. Open Sundays 11:30-8. Closed Mondays. Best to go in small groups.