Atlanta Orders In: Mushi Ni spreads its Asian fusion magic around the city

Mushi Ni’s serves Asian-American fusion food, such as duck fries; steamed buns and dumplings; and chop suey rice box with a fried egg. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Mushi Ni’s serves Asian-American fusion food, such as duck fries; steamed buns and dumplings; and chop suey rice box with a fried egg. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

In 2009, Michael Le saw on Craig’s List that celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey was hiring at the London, his two-Michelin-star restaurant in New York City. Le told his new wife, Tanya Jimenez, that she should apply.

Jimenez, then a recent graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, tried out at Ramsey’s restaurant, and got hired the next day. It was the beginning of what the Manila native calls “the experience of a lifetime.”

But, it was hard work, too. “I lived in that kitchen,” Jimenez, 42, recalled of a gig that taught her the meaning of discipline — and fatigue.

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Mushi Ni serves dim sum dishes, such as shrimp hakao (left) and char sui pork buns. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Mushi Ni serves dim sum dishes, such as shrimp hakao (left) and char sui pork buns. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

After about five years, the couple decided to trade big city life for an opportunity to cook healthy food for a cancer treatment center in Newnan. Their new job had its own set of professional and emotional challenges. “We just got burned out on that, too,” said Le, 38, a St. Louis native and alumnus of the California School of Culinary Arts.

In 2017, while consulting with Senoia Coffee & Cafe, Le suggested the owner try an evening pop-up, and volunteered to do the cooking. The couple served baos, rice bowls and fries. It was the kind of Asian-American fusion food they liked to eat at home, but they weren’t sure how it would sell in a small town.

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You can make a meal out of Mushi Ni’s loaded fries with duck confit, sweet chili sauce and chimichurri. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
You can make a meal out of Mushi Ni’s loaded fries with duck confit, sweet chili sauce and chimichurri. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

To their surprise, Mushi Ni, which means “braise” in Japanese, was a hit.

In January, 2018, Mushi Ni set up shop at We Suki Suki, the mini food hall in East Atlanta Village. Early last year, it became the pop-up-in-residence at Little Trouble, the “Blade Runner”-inspired Westside bar from Ian Jones and Caleb Wheelus. The match was such a happy one that, in January, Jimenez and Li were invited to do the food at Jones and Wheelus’ S.O.S. Tiki Bar in Decatur.

Over three years, without a brick-and-mortar location to call its own, Mushi Ni has built a brand that crisscrosses the city and serves the kind umami-packed, condiment-drizzled, pan-Asian cooking that makes people (including those seeking vegan and gluten-free options) very happy.

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Mushi Ni’s chop suey rice box comes with a choice of grain and two proteins. It’s shown here with garlic fried rice, lobster hash and Manila chicken adobo, plus a fried egg. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Mushi Ni’s chop suey rice box comes with a choice of grain and two proteins. It’s shown here with garlic fried rice, lobster hash and Manila chicken adobo, plus a fried egg. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Jimenez, a vegan herself, pointed out that half of the 12 baos on the menu are vegan. The buns may be ordered with everything from Manila chicken adobo and Korean beef bulgogi to Sichuan eggplant and roasted artichoke. Mushi Ni serves only gluten-free sweet-potato noodles, and all the condiments are gluten-free, too.

Jimenez said that, while her fine-dining experience raised her culinary standards, cooking in a medical environment heightened her awareness of nutritional balance.

Working at three different venues allows the partners to see how their hosts operate, and to test their concept in various parts of town. And, because Little Trouble and S.O.S. Tiki Bar have their own aesthetics and beverage programs, Mushi Ni can offer appropriate food pairings.

At Little Trouble, where the vibe is Japanese, you may order Tokyo fries, gyoza dumplings and chicken teriyaki to go with Japanese whiskey and soju highballs. At S.O.S., which is Polynesian in spirit, you can enjoy coconut shrimp and pineapple barbecue chicken with your mai tais and Pain Killas.

I’m a little tardy to the Mushi Ni party, but, after my recent takeout experience, I plan to make up for lost time.

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Send your suggestions to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

Mushi Ni serves takeout only at its We Suki Suki location, where it shares a pickup table with other restaurants in the mini food hall.
Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Mushi Ni serves takeout only at its We Suki Suki location, where it shares a pickup table with other restaurants in the mini food hall. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

MUSHI NI

Menu: Asian-American fusion

Alcohol: not at East Atlanta Village; at Little Trouble, you may order alcohol to go; at S.O.S. Tiki Bar, you may order nonalcoholic beverages to go

What I ordered: baos with lemongrass pork belly and Sichuan eggplant; shrimp hakao (steamed dumplings); char sui pork buns; duck fries; chop suey fried rice box with garlic ginger rice, Manilla chicken adobo, lobster hash and a fried egg; fried s’mores crepe. The buns and dumplings were beautiful and delicious; I was especially thrilled by the pork belly. The rice box and the duck fries were outrageously good, and will go into my regular rotation.

Service options: takeout, delivery via DoorDash, Uber Eats and Postmates at We Suki Suki; dine-in or takeout at Little Trouble, S.O.S. Tiki Bar

Outdoor dining: yes, at Little Trouble, S.O.S. Tiki Bar; no, at We Suki Suki

Mask policy: yes, for guests and employees

Address, phone: We Suki Suki, 477 Flat Shoals Ave SE, Atlanta. 404-405-6005; Little Trouble, 1170 Howell Mill Road NE, Atlanta. 404-500-4737; S.O.S. Tiki Bar, 340 Church St., Decatur. 404-377-9300

Hours: We Suki Suki, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; Little Trouble, 6-11 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 6 p.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays; S.O.S. Tiki Bar, 6-11 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays

Website: mushini.net

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