Dining

Reinventing Ramen at Hiromaru

Chinatown’s new spot shakes up what you know about the humble noodles
Carbonara ramen (in front) with  kuroi tonkotsu. | Photo by Anthony Mair

Carbonara ramen (in front) with kuroi tonkotsu. | Photo by Anthony Mair

Al’s Menu Picks

  • Fried rice ($6.50)
  • Chashu pork bowl ($6.50)
  • Carbonara ramen ($11)
  • Kuroi tonkotsu ($8)

It wasn’t all that long ago that most Las Vegans thought ramen was little more than those dirt-cheap dried noodles we ate in our college dorm rooms. Then Monta showed up in 2010 and taught us all how amazing these simple Japanese noodle dishes could be. Over the past few years, ramen has caught fire in our Valley—to the point that it’s almost become boring. Thankfully, Hiromaru Fusion Ramen recently opened in Chinatown to take ramen to a new level.

Hiromaru is a beautiful new space. It boasts a modern red and white décor in the one dining room that’s open, with the other dining room set to debut as an izakaya, with Japanese small bites, this month.

I know some people will immediately bristle at the idea of “fusion ramen.” But before you get on your high horse about how that’s not the way they do it in Japan, take a deep breath. Hiromaru is actually a Japanese chain that’s finally branched out to this side of the Pacific. So the food they offer is authentic, if not traditional.

Hiromaru offers four styles of ramen, three of which utilize a traditional tonkotsu, or pork broth. The simplest is shiroi tonkotsu, which pairs the broth with thin-sliced chashu pork, brown garlic oil, thin noodles and a hard-boiled egg. It’s a good dish, but fairly basic. I’d rather go with kuroi tonkotsu, which is basically the same item made with black garlic oil. That black garlic adds several new levels of flavor that really elevate the dish. I’m also a huge fan of the carbonara ramen, made with tonkotsu, milk and bacon with a fresh egg yolk stirred in. It’s a beautiful combination of Italian and Japanese cuisine that may be a bit too salty for some, but works well for me.

Lacey freshly cracked egg surrounds the house special fried rice. | Photo by Anthony Mair

Lacey freshly cracked egg surrounds the house special fried rice. | Photo by Anthony Mair

The only noodles I’ve tried at Hiromaru that didn’t hit the spot are the tate-yama. The soy sauce-based broth is pretty good, but the massive helping of bean sprouts and cabbage made it difficult to enjoy the noodles. Sadly, this is almost more of a salad than ramen.

As great as the noodles at Hiromaru are, don’t overlook the side dishes. While most of the ramen include chashu pork, the pork bowl over rice gives it the spotlight it deserves. The meat is tender, juicy and flavorful. But I’m even more impressed with the chef’s take on fried rice. The Chinese staple is given a Japanese touch with a freshly cracked egg, scallions, rice and a bit more of that beautiful pork served on a hot stone and mixed together tableside.

Finally, the restaurant offers a pretty decent version of the Japanese fried-chicken dish, karaage. I’m not generally a fan of this appetizer because most places in town make it with very little seasoning. But the batter here is excellent. My only problem is that they tend to use mediocre cuts of chicken. That complaint notwithstanding, it’s still the best version in Las Vegas.

The local Japanese dining scene continues to get better and better, because it’s getting more and more diverse. Hiromaru is a great new addition because it pushes the envelope. Sure, this probably isn’t the kind of Japanese food you would have found in Tokyo 30 years ago. But for Las Vegas in 2014, it’s delicious.

Hiromaru Fusion Ramen

5300 Spring Mountain Rd., 534-7878. Open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Mon–Sat,
11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sun. Dinner for two, $20-$30.

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