New York restaurateur Joshua Smookler is opening a temporary ramen shop in Burke, Virginia this month featuring premium ingredients he says are essential to properly enjoying his cooking.
“We only care about serving the best possible food,” Smookler, a Per Se alum who opened Mu Ramen in Queens several years ago, says of his vision for pop-up eatery, Mu Va. Featured offerings will include ramen made with the bones of acorn-fed Spanish pigs ($21); a wagyu rib-eye steak from renowned producer Snake River Farms; and a 10-ounce, dry-aged short rib burger ($22).
The family-run restaurant is moving into the space currently occupied by H Pho (9546 Old Keene Mill Road, Burke, Va.), the Vietnamese eatery operated by his in-laws. Smookler and his wife Mu “Heidy” He, have served his brand of non-traditional ramen — “I’ve never been to Japan. We make a very NY-style ramen,” he tells Eater — in the area before, setting up shop at the same location in 2015 for a two-day stand.
Smookler says He’s parents are “pretty much ready to retire,” but still have about 18 months left on their current lease. He doesn’t expect to keep Mu Va in place that entire time, citing 12 months as his current goal. “As long as people come, we will be there,” Smookler says. He’s already purchased new kitchen equipment and is in the process of shipping down a communal table from his restaurant in New York. There’s other “minor renovations” in the works, but Smookler says everything should be in place by mid-June — including a new ATM — for the cash-only operation.
As for what he openly describes as a “pretty expensive menu,” Smookler says local diners will get their money’s worth.
“There will be no tips and no extra service charge,” he says of the flat rates he’s adopted. While the house ramen, which features Iberian ham, creeps above the $20 mark, the three other ramen offerings — shoyu, spicy miso, and tonkatsu — will range from $16-$18 per order. By comparison, Atlas District mainstay Toki Underground’s ramen runs $14-$15 per bowl (gratuity not included), while Chinatown’s Daikaya charges $12.75-$14 a pop. Smookler says Mu Va will also serve “a bunch of little appetizers,” as well as beer, wine, and sake by the glass.
Smookler is confident Northern Virginians will appreciate the extra investments he’s made in Mu Va — so much so that scouting for a permanent location remains on his to-do list. “We’re excited to do something in Northern Virginia,” he tells Eater.