Ramro’s menu pulls inspiration from Nepal and the Philipines. Photo: Ramro

While booming in its own right, Astoria’s restaurant scene remains more or less insulated from the check-bloating trends of Manhattan and Brooklyn. In Astoria, a great slice of pizza still costs $3, and “caviar” is more likely to refer to taramosalata than Osetra on top of a mozzarella stick. “There are really good bars that only charge like $13 a cocktail,” says Ravi Thapa, who grew up in Astoria after his family emigrated from Nepal in 2000 and who got his start in front-of-house work at local bar Mar’s in 2015. Knowing this, Thapa wanted to be careful about debuting a tasting menu at Ramro, his Nepalese Filipino New American restaurant. “We know not everyone wants to do the tasting,” he says, referring to the six-course $99 menu that debuted early this year, “so that’s why it’s only available at the bar,” by which he means just four seats.

In addition to the very limited seating, Ramro’s tasting menu is available only on Saturday nights. This past weekend, it started with a trio of bites including a tiny puri puff with shrimp mousse. The crudo was snapper with kosho and vinegar that chef Raymund Embarquez made with dalandan, the lemony-orange citrus fruit, which his fiancée’s mother sends from her backyard tree in California. A monkfish course was served with a stock that had been seasoned with fermented black bean. That was followed by duck with annatto oil and achara, a pickled-papaya condiment, and the meal finished with Basque cheesecake and butternut-squash cream.

Ramro is a far cry from Thapa’s previous restaurant, Foodstruck, a late-night dive that gained a following with its cheddar chopped cheese on garlic bread, pork-belly sandwiches, and loco-moco bowls until the pandemic forced it to cease operations. Around this time, Thapa signed a lease for the location that would become Ramro, working on it for two and a half years just “to get the gas turned on,” while he went back to managing elsewhere to pay the bills. After a false start last summer — reopening as Foodstruck only to find that demand had waned — Thapa enlisted Embarquez, and they opened Ramro in the same space just in time for New Year’s Eve dinner, naming it after a Nepali word that means “beautiful” or “It’s all good,” Thapa says. “It’s similar to the shaka sign.” On the à la carte menu, the Nepalese influence shows up in the form of pani puri and momos filled with confit duck thigh.

The menu also includes a Pithiviers filled with pork, chicken, and bone marrow, a nod to Embarquez’s previous job in the kitchen at Claud, and for dessert there is silvanas, fluffy coffee meringue layered with buttercream and pistachios. A homemade cheddar ice cream, meanwhile, is stealthily Filipino-inspired. Thapa explains that it evolved from a version made with Eden, a popular processed cheese in the Philippines: “It always throws people off even though cheesecake is a thing.”

Thapa is happy with the response he has seen to the restaurant in the few months it has been open, though he’s sticking to the Friday-through-Sunday schedule since the staff is so small, with Thapa and his wife, Gloria Xu, doing most of the hosting and serving at this point. “Astoria has a lot of really amazing restaurants. I don’t think there’s one currently that does a tasting like we’re doing,” Thapa says. “The cost tends to be really high, but we don’t wanna price it outside of Astoria.”

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