A native of Japan and a 19-year veteran of the restaurant industry, Chef Shuya Miyawaki knows a thing or two about Japanese cuisine.
After cooking in Japanese restaurants in Tokyo; later working as an executive chef at JINYA Ramen Bar in Los Angeles and in the West Village for eight years; and making sushi at 1 OR 8 Sushi in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Miyawaki decided to strike out on his own.
Shuya Cafe de Ramen opened its doors on Feb. 3 at 42-13 Broadway in Astoria. Wooden tables and chairs are arranged along the parameter of the restaurant which also features floating shelves and a window into the kitchen where Miyawaki creates his dishes.
The ramen at Shuya Cafe differs from traditional ramen in a few ways. The ubiquitous pork broth is replaced by a combination of chicken and fish broths. Miyawaki, 37, said this is for health and flavor reasons. Pork broth contains heavy amounts of fat and monosodium glutamate or MSG.
After years of cooking with and eating foods heavy in the chemical compound, Miyawaki said his health began suffering and he decided to exclusively use the less fatty broths.
He does not use any MSG in his dishes and also heavily relies on vegetables for his hot and cold tapas. Miyawaki originally planned to open up a vegetarian restaurant but wanted to put his background in noodle making to use.
“I’m really interested in the vegetables,” Miyawaki said. “My career is not based on vegetables so I needed something else and that was the ramen. But I still want to focus on the vegetables, too.”
Miyawaki took two to three months to create his menu, which he says is always changing. He prints each menu on paper so he can easily and cost-effectively add or remove dishes when he pleases. QNS went to Shuya Cafe de Ramen to try a few dishes, which have received glowing Yelp reviews.
Shuya’s cocktail shrimp, a perfect combination of boiled black tiger shrimp, avocado and sweet and sour sauce is a light and flavorful addition to the cold tapas menu. Miyawaki uses every part of the shrimp by roasting the shell and mixing it into the sauce.
He serves most dishes on hand-made plates and bowls which him and his wife, Hitomi Kamimura make themselves.
The garden salad proves that the chef has mastered his vegetables. A mixture of broccoli, red bell peppers, squash, avocados, carrots, brussell sprouts, kale, mizuna, oba, a japanese basil topped with thin strips of crunchy potato are drizzled in a soy sauce, oil, vinegar, daikon radish and onion dressing.
The nabe salad, “nabe” being the Japanese word for cooking pot, pairs together an eclectic mix of Chinese cabbage, button, shittake, king oyster, shimeji and enoki mushrooms, mizuna, red bell pepper, tofu, daikon radish and carrots in a chicken and fish broth.
Miyawaki also brings out a side of Yuzu pepper pastes to give the salad an extra kick.
The Shuya ramen, one of the most popular dishes, is a mixture of Miyawaki’s thick, curly noodles, chicken, fish and clam broth, pork chashu, steamed vegetables and an egg marinated in soy sauce and ginger.
Miyawaki strives to create ramen that is light but flavorful, the kind that won’t make you feel guilty after you eat it, he said.
Though his dessert options are not on the menu yet, the chef brought out a roasted green tea pudding called hojicha pudding. Made with cage-free eggs for a rich consistency and a surprise at the bottom – a generous portion of caramel.
Shuya Cafe offers something for everyone and Miyawaki’s innovative take on ramen should be enough reason to visit.