This isn't a traditional American noodle house, where the menu tries to cover as many Asian specialties as possible. Chef Edward Kim had a different vision when he opened Mi and Yu Noodle Bar in Federal Hill in September.
"I wanted a casual, make-your-own noodles place," he said. "I wanted it to be chef-driven."
The classically trained chef, who once oversaw the kitchens at the popular Soigne in South Baltimore and Saffron in Mount Vernon, came up with a simple concept. Customers select a protein, a noodle and a broth at a service counter and pick up their steaming bowls of soup when they're ready. Food can be eaten in the minimalist dining room with seating for 20 or ordered for takeout.
These aromatic potions are nuanced with complex flavors from the long-simmered broth, soft meats, textured noodles and crisp vegetables. The fragrance alone made us hungry.
We inhaled happily like uninhibited kids before diving into buttermilk-brined fried chicken that melts in your mouth, spaghetti-like ramen and a spicy kimchi liquid. In our other bowl, hunks of tender short ribs married well with thicker udon noodles and a more intense adobo-flavored, roast-duck broth. Each dish sports a pretty boiled egg. We can't wait to go back and mix and match other combinations.
Newbies need not be fearful. Kim is happy to explain the merits of each selection. He warns that the beef dashi, a full-bodied broth from braised short ribs, has a "cult following." It sells out quickly and is not always available, he said.
The hearty soups are the only menu items at this time. But each bowl is filled to the brim. As you slurp the contents with a large spoon and chopsticks (forks are available), you're rewarded with a beautiful lotus blossom etched into the dish—a lovely reminder of the care that has gone into the preparation.
Scene & Decor The tiny storefront has a communal table for nine with 11 other stools at a wall counter and two tables at the front windows. The pristine, functional space is a neutral spot for slurping your noodles. The walls get stylistic treatment from several small black containers filled attractively with garlic bulbs, whole chili peppers and fat ginger-root knobs. An energetic vibe is boosted by hip-hop on the sound system and owner Edward Kim's banter with the guests.
Appetizers Look for baos (Chinese steamed buns) in the spring.
Entrees Diners choose three items for each noodle bowl — a protein (buttermilk-brined fried chicken, five-spiced barbecue pork belly, soy-miso braised short ribs, a veggie bowl [fried tofu] and roast duck carnitas), a noodle (ramen, udon and pho) and a broth (spicy kimchi, savory miso, adobo-flavored roast duck, vegetarian and beef dashi, when available). The bowls are finished with Napa cabbage, tofu, shiitake mushrooms, herbed sprout salad, jalapeño slices and a soft-boiled egg. Our chicken, ramen and spicy kimchi bowl was $12; the short ribs, udon and roast-duck broth was $14. And, yes, we had leftovers.
Drinks Sodas like Coke, Sprite and Frostie Root Beer; bottled water; and pitchers of complimentary ice water.
Service No wait staff. Customers order and pay at the counter; then, pick up their orders when they're ready.