Back when I first moved to Queens there was a pizzeria in downtown Flushing called T.J.’s that sold a Korean-influenced slice. Apart from a generous serving of tangy, peppery kimchi it was a classic New York City slice. And T.J.’s itself was a classic New York City pizza parlor.
A few weeks ago some friends and I tried out Pizza Maru, in the vast K-tropolis of Northern Boulevard. If T.J.’s was a classic New York joint then Pizza Maru is classic Korean fast-casual spot. It’s Pizza Hut as envisioned by Korean businessmen, complete with four types of stuffed crusts and more than a dozen pies, including honey gorgonzola and Chicago style.
Our waiter was quick to name “crazy hot chicken and shrimp” as his favorite pie, but we decided to go with something more Korean, a bulgogi pizza. Because nothing quite communicates Korean cuisine like Canadian ham, onions, slices of beef, red and green peppers, mushrooms and lashings of sweet barbecue sauce and a ranch dressing. Pizza Maru’s bulgogi pie bears as much resemblance to bulgogi as a Syracuse garbage plate does to a bento box. This is by no means a bad thing. My crew and I dug the wacky pie and the “crown crust” filled with string cheese and cream cheese.
We also shared an order of spicy gangjeong chicken. Pizza Maru offers crispy chicken, but the one we chose had a spicy glaze coating the crispy antibiotic free Cornish game hen. Maru is not kidding when it comes to the spice on this chicken. My crew of spice heads and I happily dredged our pizza crusts through the pool of angry looking glaze.
A visit to Pizza Maru’s English language web site revealed something, unexpected, “wellbeing dough,” which apparently contains organic green tea and chlorella and 12 kinds of cereals like rye, black rice, sorghum and wheat. I’m so glad that none of this information appears on the menu of the 500-unit-plus franchise’s Flushing store. It would have been a total buzzkill.
Pizza Maru, 156-16 Northern Blvd., Flushing, 718-888-1844