totto-ramen

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NYC Summer 2014 : Totto Ramen

My friend krowr had texted me on her first trip to Totto and proclaimed this her new favorite ramen spot in NYC (supplanting her other favorite which she had gotten me hooked on - Ramen Setagaya). So I dropped by their 52nd Street location (there’s an newer place on 51st to alleviate the congestion at the original 52nd Street location) when I had the chance and lucky for me, I slipped right in at the counter without having to wait.

Totto is known or its paitan or milky chicken broth, and in particular it’s spicy ramen with a house made chili. But first, I ordered their pork bao, which was slathered with a nice amount of Japanese mayonnaise. The pork was delicious but I could have done with less mayo - more my personal preference than anything else, really. In terms of ramen, I ended up ordering their special - spicy “nibo” ramen. I was really impressed with the depth of flavor of the chili - it was floral, and smokey and then spicy. The broth was medium bodied, with a creamy mouth feel, although it was really hard to taste the chicken flavor through all the chilies. Maybe it was the heat, but I would have been happier with a simpler broth. The noodles were very firm and not especially chewy. Maybe I was spoiled from my tsukemen in LA and Tokyo, but I was longing for a little more chew. Although this bowl didn’t quite do it for me, I’m looking forward to returning when the weather is a little cooler and trying the plain paitan broth.

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Food. So much food. 

Since I’ve gotten to New York, I have made it a mission to run at least 3-5 miles every day (minus the days where I’m too hungover to function), not because I want to lose weight (I’ve thrown that possibility out the window the second I started thinking about moving here), but because I want to maximize my food intake and still somehow keep my weight remotely under control. Basically, I want to be able to eat all the food that NYC has to offer and then some, without turning into something that can only be described as a walking talking gelatinous mass.

Totto Ramen. Better than Ippudo? Maybe. Does it really matter? I don’t think it should. I find myself doing this all the time, attempting to rate the legitimacy of a restaurant by comparing it to another. I guess this is usually the case with most things, not just food. Our way of making sense of things I suppose. I think I’m going to try to use comparison less. Maybe this will allow me to approach experiences in a way that will result in new ways of thinking about things. We shall see.  

T and I waited for about an hour before we got seated. The place is small. One row of about 10 seats at the bar and about five small tables in the back? My memory of the place isn’t really of the interior set-up, so I could be way off. I ordered the Mega Ramen. The description said that this ramen is best for pork lovers, so naturally, since I do very much love pork, I ordered it. Totto Ramen, your description was on point. With three different cuts of pork all perfectly prepared, Mega Ramen, I am forever yours. Also, if quantity is just as important as quality for you (absolutely no shame in that), let me just say that I willingly walked from Hell’s Kitchen back to my apartment in the East Village (roughly an hour long walk), hoping that I could regain my ability to breathe normally by the end of the day. I found Totto to be EXTREMELY generous with their meat and noodles (for Mega Ramen, at least), making every one of the $15 I spent, worth it. 

Given the amount of eating that I do everyday, I am a little worried that this blog might turn into a food blog, which was not my intention when I first created it. With that said, I do feel that food is a hugely significant part of a city’s culture, so hopefully I will be able to write well-balanced, thoughtful entries as I continue my wanderings throughout the city. 

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My friends have been raving about Totto Ramen for quite some time now and I figured it was about time I tried it out. Especially since it’s a 10 minutes walk from my place along 52nd street between 8th and 9th avenue.

Place feels really authentic to its Japanese roots, from the texture of the ramen to the alleylike space. It’s pretty decent except for the long wait. Like Ippudo, try it during odd hours (3pm… 11pm) as it opens from 12pm - 12am.

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May 18, 2013 - Totto Ramen

Waited in line for about a little more than an hour and a half. I ordered the Totto Mega Ramen and shared a side of Broiled Char Siu Pork with a friend. The Totto Mega Ramen came in this big bowl filled with Char Siu Pork, Shredded Char Siu bits, bean sprouts, and other various seasonings. I topped mine with corn and more bean sprouts.

The side of Broiled Char Siu Pork came first and it was delicious. There was nothing to dip it in, and you didn’t have to add anything to it, really. It was served with bean sprouts and some asian vegetable leaves.

Then the main course arrived. When I first saw it, I was excited; the bowl looked cool: I loved the layout and the smell of cooked ramen. The first thing that I tasted was the Char Siu Pork and it was delicious. The oily and fatty parts: my favorite…but…it was a tad salty…maybe a little bit too salty. It caused everything else in my bowl to be a little too salty too. I liked the ramen; I didn’t love it, but it was certainly delicious. The wavy, yellow, long noodles were tasty and cooked just right. The entire meal still left me satisfied, even though I had to reach for my glass of water more times than I had expected to.

I would definitely come back to try some of the other things on the menu. This time, I’ll arrive a little earlier, and hopefully, I don’t have to wait until it gets dark to get seated.

The girl to my left was a stranger. The guy to my right was a stranger. Not one word was spoken between any of us for 20 minutes. Our elbows touched a couple of times, but that was about it. Our triumvirate was connected only by what stood in front of us. Food has this odd effect where you feel an immensely personal bond with the people who prepared your meal and the ones you share it with. If every family cooked good food on Thanksgiving there would be less talking, less arguing, and a stronger sense of kinship. Good food - the kind that becomes more than sustenance, the kind that pokes at your moral heartstrings, the kind that can turn a cynic into a believer - has this magical ability unlike any in the universe. For 20 minutes this afternoon, over a bowl of noodles, I got to know the strangers next to me, our slurping content to do all the talking.