Photo by Suzanne Parker
We were drawn to Hashi Ramen & Izakawa by its reputation for authentic Japanese ramen and pub grub.
Usually, when you enter a Japanese eatery, you are traditionally greeted with a hearty chorus of “Irasshaimases.” Instead we were greeted by a pair of slouching post-adolescents who looked at us like we just interrupted their favorite TV show.
The hostess gestured vaguely to some counter seating facing the window. When we demurred, she led us to a table with a sigh of resignation and a raising and lowering of her shoulders. The table was in the rear of the restaurant with a perfectly aligned view of dirty dishes.
Whether it was our ethnicity, our age, or just that this is her standard demeanor towards all customers we will never know, but all our fellow patrons were young Asians.
Once we were seated, things seemed to pick up. Our server was friendly and upbeat. She recited the specials of the day, and enthusiastically endorsed our choices. Unfortunately, she returned to our table to let us know that they were out of the first two items we ordered. They had just sold the last bottle of the great new Japanese beer she had recommended and the last of the Uni Ikuru Don. It was only 6:30 p.m.
We substituted a couple of draft Sapporos and a Salmon Ikuru Don.
After a bit of a wait, our server returned with one mug of Sapporo, which went to our dining companion, explaining that they were in the process of changing the keg. During what seemed like an interminable wait for another one, we wondered whether we shouldn’t have ordered a different beverage. It may have been a subliminal message telegraphed by the advertising placard for Ikezo Sparkling Peach Jell-o Sake. The blurb proclaimed “..its jelly-like texture and slight bubbling on your tongue is shockingly divine. Rich in Ceramide and a-EG, natural skin moisturizer!” A missed opportunity, indeed.
The other brew and the Salmon Ikura Don eventually arrived. Ikura is salmon roe. Don is short for Donburi, meaning rice bowl. It’s a homey way of serving sushi, involving draping the fish slices and roe over a bowl of sushi rice. The quality of all components was quite acceptable, and the presentation enticing with garnishes of microgreens and a small orchid.
Maguro Caprese was something of a fusion dish. Grouped slices of Yellowfin tuna alternating with excellent quality fresh mozzarella, nondescript tomato and a basil leaf were laid out around the rim of a wide rimmed bowl. The combination worked surprisingly well. The presentation was garnished with microgreens and another orchid.
We tried two of the four varieties of ramen on offer, Tonkotsu and Soyu. Both broths were decent if not memorable. The pork belly, greens and bean sprouts were adequate. There was no cute swirly fish cake or extra toppings available to be added. The chopsticks and spoon provided were of a dark wood with light, worn down edges that had seen much service. We couldn’t help but wonder about the hygiene of such utensils.
A chef’s special, scallops in garlic sauce came next. The tender scallops were surprisingly bland for all the garlic. This dish, too, was served in a deep bowl with a wide rim garnished with microgreens and (you guessed it) an orchid. What happened to the Japanese tradition of unmatched china and presentations specific to each dish?
Our curiosity was piqued by the offer of a custard cream puff. What would be the Asian take on a cream puff? We got out answer. It was an ordinary largish cream puff still a little frozen in the middle.
The Bottom Line
The setting was grungy and carelessly decorated for a Japanese eatery. We think we may have wandered into the Japanese answer to a dive bar. The food was decent enough, but the overall attitude betrayed indifference to the customer.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at qnsfo
Hashi Ramen & Izakaya
192-12 Northern Blvd.
Price Range: Small plates $9 — $15
Cuisine: Ramen, sushi, and assorted small plates.
Setting: Small and grungy.
Hours: Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., and 5 p.m. – 3 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3 a.m.
Alcohol: Beer, sake, soju
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Can get noisy depending on crowd
Handicap accessible: Yes