BY BRADLEY HAWKS
When 9-year-old Samuel Lu’s family moved from China next door to the family of 10-year-old Ben Lam in Flushing, a lifelong friendship was started over some good old-fashioned rounds of hoops after school. Lu’s father had been a chef at a five star restaurant in the Guanzhong region of China, and while the two boys tossed the basketball, they dreamt aloud of one day opening their own restaurant together.
Just two decades later, that dream became a reality when Honoo Grill & Noodle opened its doors on Ditmars this past January. The Japanese word for “flame”—a nod to the grilled preparation of many of the restaurants offerings—Honoo is Astoria’s newest pan-Asian restaurant. Bringing together Lu and Lam’s favorite dishes from the diverse continent, they serve several Japanese-style street foods, Chinese entrees, and Thai, Malaysian, and Korean plates, all with a Western Twist. The twist is “in the sauces we use, and in the presentation,” explains Lu.
A tasty introduction to the fusion going on here is the plate of three fried wonton tacos stuffed with braised beef and peppers. The seafood wontons are also standouts, hand-stuffed with white fish and shrimp, and served with a sweet Thai chili sauce. Other traditional street foods include fried takoyaki, as well as a broad selection of yakitori.
With kebabs ranging from just $2 to $7, these yakitori are ideal for mixing and matching as a full meal, or simply adding as a supplement to another entrée or noodle dish. Try the herbed beef short ribs, spicy cumin lamb, or a family recipe of tare-glazed chicken skewers. A house favorite, the cumin seasoning crystallizes on the meats, a crunchy coating which gives way to sweet and juicy bite-sized meats.
The Honoo Special Noodles soup is exceptional, with a creamy broth rendered from boiling pork bones overnight, releasing the marrow and deep flavors into the soup. Take a moment to savor the egg crowning the bowl of soup like a cherry on a sundae. Initially soft-boiled, the egg is then pickled in soy sauce and secret seasonings overnight, cut in half, then carefully stirred into the piping hot broth. The main ingredient, the cha-shu pork, is first seared and caramelized to seal in flavor, then slow-roasted for several hours, rendering it exceptionally tender. The sum of all of the components is a labor-and-flavor-intensive bowl of comfort soup.
Entrees of note are the bone-in lemongrass pork chops; sweet-and-spicy glazed jumbo tiger prawns; and a grilled chicken breast with a Thai basil pesto laced with mint, cilantro, and jalapeno.
Honoo now serves a full range of beer, wine, and sake. Lu also promises a soon-to-come sushi bar, which will offer a full selection of fresh sashimi and sushi, along with twelve special rolls.
The best idea—share the tacos, some cumin skewers, the special soup, and an entrée, all washed back with a Japanese brew. For lunch, build any combo of skewers with a salad and miso soup for $9.
Honoo Grill & Noodle
33-06 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria
Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
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