HinoMaru Ramen, 33-18 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria; (718) 777-0228
Astorians may finally slurp away, as HinoMaru Ramen (from the group that brought Spot Dessert Bar to the East Village) officially opened on Ditmars Blvd. (near 35th St.) this week, just a few doors down from the currently expanding Watawa (one of Astoria's most celebrated sushi joints, presently under renovation). Filling in a void that has been hitting the city by storm, the residents of Western Queens can now choose from over 8 different regional bowls of ramen, plus an entire side menu of add-ins. Check out my article today on GrubStreet.com for the abridged version.
Gyoza, made fresh in the restaurant, are what I regard as the most delicious I have tasted in a long time. They are steamed to a juicy tenderness, and then beautifully seared to add crunch.
The Niku man (pork belly bun) are pretty straightforward and delicious... a definite must-order at $5. The pork belly is remarkably tender, balanced with the sweetness of hoisin and the crunch of sprouts, lettuce, and scallions--all served on the most angelically fluffy steamed bun imaginable.
They also offer a handful of vegetable sides, like this refreshing $4 watermelon salad with tomato, yuzu vinaigrette, and scallions.
The soup broth simmers with the pork bones for nearly twelve hours. Ramen variations include Hakata, Hokkaido, and Tokyo (pictured above) styles along with a selection of donburi (rice bowls). The kitchen is led by Chef Koji Miyamoto, and will be continually evolving to offer new flavors and dishes for customers.
It's not available for ordering (yes, I tried), but boxes of chocolate ramen are even on display on the counter... intended to show that ramen is available in endless variations.
The 60-seat space is comfortably open, with two large rooms separated by a long noodle bar, where guests can watch the chef at work in the large open kitchen. Masks of Tengu adorn the walls (the Japanese spirit of mischief). Service is dine-in only, and they are closed on Mondays. Dinner service this week starts at 5:00 p.m., but lunch is anticipated to begin next week.
The chorus of staff chiming "Domo arigato gozaimashita" as guests exit the restaurant may be unfamiliar to the neighborhood, but it's music to the ears. The staff is extremely friendly, the food delicious, and the space perfect for an intimate Lady & the Tramp noodle dinner, or a communal meal at one of the large tables in the back.
Welcome to Astoria, HinoMaru... and domo arigato gozaimashita!