We’re happy to share with you another installation of Lucy Eats Alone – in this post, she talks about her love of kimchi and giving HinoMaru Ramen another chance (with positive results!). -Meg
I’m fighting a post-holiday cold and am in serious need of spicy soup. Friends have been pestering me to give HinoMaru Ramen on Ditmars another shot. I’d been the first week they opened and haven’t been back (I know it’s totally unfair for me to base any opinion on such an early visit). This doesn’t make any sense, since Japanese food is probably my favorite and I have a substantial kimchi problem.
I have kimchi daily. Aside from smoked salmon and capers, it’s the only thing that’s always in my fridge. Some mornings if I’m late for work, I’ll eat a couple forkfuls while I shotgun coffee (it’s probably good I live alone, or alternately, it’s one of the reasons I live alone). Just this weekend, in fact, I had my favorite breakfast – scrambled eggs with kimchi. Cutting back on kimchi and replacing it with a wider variety of spicy goodness is one of my new year’s resolutions.
I stopped in at HinoMaru mid-afternoon, and it was almost as busy as Kylcades. To start, I ordered agedashi tofu and kimchi. Since I was last here, they’ve added a couple sushi rolls and changed up the menu a bit.
The menu didn’t strike me as very vegetarian-friendly, but happily I was eating alone, so I didn’t care. It includes a tapas / appetizer section, salads, rice, and of course, ramen. I remember a really nice watermelon salad they had on my last visit in the summer. They’ve got beer, wine and sake as well but today I’m going to have to pass with the hopes that my virtious behavior will kick my cold. (And if that doesn’t work, tomorrow I’ll go the single malt route.)
The kimchi was crunchy and delicious. Personally I’d like it just a bit spicier, but I’m thrilled it’s not limp. The tofu is nicely fried and garnished with a fried shiso leaf. Munching on my kimchi as if I hadn’t had any in days, I saw they have homemade tofu. Not much is a soothing as home made tofu. Dang. I think I ordered wrong. Guess I’ll be back.
I turned the menu over and at the bottom saw buns – pork, shrimp, crab, and soft shell crab. Now, I have to admit, I have a fairly serious crush on everything David Chang (yes, everything) and as such my pork bun holy grail is at Momofuku. Although I thought that there was a good chance I may be vastly disappointed, I waxed optimistic and ordered the pork bun.
The bun was pretty damn good. The bun itself was light and the pork was so succulent it just fell apart. I slipped a little kimchi in for a contrasting texture and I was indeed a happy girl. In fact, I contemplated ordering a second but refrained. This is, after all, a ramen joint and I hadn’t ordered any yet. I went with the Nagoya Ramen in a meat broth with minced pork, leek, scallion, bean sprouts and chili peppers. The menu includes a selection of toppings and I added a fire ball and bamboo.
HinoMaru is great for a big lunch/dinner with friends or a casual date. I’d skip it if you are looking for something romantic. I was the only person eating alone and they seated me at the bar. I love eating at the bar but I was bummed that I’m too short to see over the stacks of bowls and ingredients to watch the show in the kitchen. The ramen was perfectly cooked and each element was flavorful but there was a ridiculous amount of it. It looks like I’ll have breakfast – or even enough breakfast for two. But that’s a whole other resolution.