Chef Talk: Edward Kim

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Mi & Yu Noodle Bar

Edward Kim seemed to disappear after shuttering his restaurant Soigne in 2005 and jumping in and out of a cou-ple other gigs. Kim, in fact, has been taking care of his elderly parents while working as food and beverage director at the Westin Hotel at BWI—a job that taught him that his entre-preneurial spirit is ill-suited to a corporate setting. Happily, he’s back in Baltimore, with Mi & Yu, a fast casual noodle bar in Federal Hill.

What inspired you to open a noodle shop? I’m not here to create the wheel. David Chang—the Momofuku guy—basically did that. I’ve been to all the ramen bars, and other than Momofuku, (the New York restaurant will open a D.C. branch later this year) and Toki Underground, they’re not good. Mi & Yu has three noodle offerings: ramen, udon and pho. The common theme of those three items is the broth. I trained
in French technique, where they make an absolutely gorgeous soup stock, with flavor, contrast and harmony. A good stock can’t be singularly beefy or singularly porky. You need contrast to offset the proteins.

You serve sandwiches and steam buns, too? From an international standpoint, banh mi is the most popular sandwich in the world. Like soccer is the most popular sport. I’m not here to give the customers 10,000 ingredients. You have four major protein choices you can have with noodles, banh mi or bao. We’re also offering duck fat fries with truffle aioli.

No crabcakes? If you come in craving a crabcake, you can go somewhere else. Every corner around will have a crabcake for you.

Why fast casual? I don’t want people to confuse this with fine dining. There’s no reason to sit for an hour. Eat and leave. If you’re in Tokyo and you go to a ramen-ya, it’s not a fine dining experience. It’s a lot of energy, with elbows rubbing together, customers fighting for a seat. It’s totally demand-driven. I have 12 counter seats, 14 table seats.

The majority of table seats are communal.

You expect to have a line out the door? That’s the game plan. If I don’t, I’ll be in trouble. I want people to go to option two, which is takeout. I want Federal Hill neighbors to call in, walk over and pick up the food in a timely fashion. The longer they wait, the more likely it’ll turn into mush. It’s not like a Chinese restaurant where the food can sit on the counter forever.

What is the etiquette of slurping? Asians think the more you slurp, the longer you will live. Long noodles mean a long life. I would prefer that people slurp. You shouldn’t be embarrassed. But you have to know how to use chopsticks. You don’t want to be a slob. You want to enjoy the noodles, and then use the renge spoon to capture the dangling noodles and some of the broth mixed in.  —MARTHA THOMAS

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