Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Totto Ramen

Not to belabour the point, but like I've said to my brother before - ramen, is, like, my life.  I lovelovelove ramen - the real stuff, not that instant crap - and I eat it every opportunity I get.

So after tackling the #1 Best Ramen in NYC according to Serious Eats NY, Superwoman and I were very, very pleased and absolutely ready for more.  The original plan was
to go to #2, the famous Ippudo, but we were mainly hanging out in midtown during our stay in New York, so we ended up visiting SENY's #3 Best Ramen in NYC - Totto Ramen, which happens to be the sister restaurant of Hide-Chan.

We got there early evening on a Wednesday night and there was already a line.

When I went to restaurants in Japan and ramen places in Vancouver, I found that the waiters were trained to make you form a line outside even when there was room inside the restaurant for the first few people to wait - people get curious about lines and will follow suit.

However, at Totto, there was a crowd surrounding the door out of necessity, not only because the restaurant is tiny but because there actually were a lot of people waiting to get in.  There was a clip board attached to the door for people to put down their name and party size.  Beside that there was a clear list of strict rules: no reservations, no takeout (it would compromise the quality of the food), no deliveries, your entire party must be present when your name is called in order to be seated, and groups of larger than 4 usually have to be split up.

We were down with all that.  And we waited a whole hour before we finally got a seat.  Several parties had given up before us and I was really tempted to take someone's spot when female names for parties of 2 were called and no one responded - I'd sink that low for ramen - but I didn't.

By the time we sat down we already knew what we were going to get.  I got the basic Totto Chicken Paitan Ramen ($9.25 - pictured below) and Superwoman, who'd worked up a healthy appetite by then, got the Niku Ramen ($15 - first photo in post).

Once again, it was all very good, and I understood that this place was named #3 Best Ramen in NYC by virtue of the actual type of ramen it is, not because of the quality.  Quality-wise, it could absolutely throw down with the best ramen joints out there.  But Totto specializes in chicken broth ramen, which is naturally not as rich as pork bone broth, which really all boils down to preference, although tonkotsu (pork bone broth) is usually more popular.

My chicken broth was silky smooth and deliciously sweet - in that fresh, savoury way, not in a sugary way, I mean.  The 2 slices of chashu were excellent, just like Hide-Chan's - melt-in-your-mouth good and thicker than traditional types but very, very tasty and well-marinated.  The noodles could have been a bit firmer, in my opinion, but unlike Hide-Chan, you can't pick the doneness of your noodles (or the intensity of your soup, for that matter).

Superwoman's ramen was definitely stronger - it's described as the "meat lover's ramen" on the menu and appropriately, there was a lot more meat in it.  It was also wonderful.  The soup base was more intense and concentrated than the basic one, and the entire concoction was sprinkled with large, generous daubs of Japanese garlic paste (which I love and hate to eat because it's SO DELICIOUS but no amount of brushing and mints can get rid of the aftertaste in your mouth for a few hours after).  I think I liked hers better this time.

The service, like at most Japanese-run establishments was efficient and courteous.  The seating, also like many Japanese restaurants, was very limited and quite narrow - not designed for fat North Americans but we gleefully go anyway. :P  I liked the brick facade of the one wall, the open kitchen as well as the halogen lights.  And the awesome, fashionably-edgy servers - Japanese people are so stylish!

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and would recommend it to fellow ramen lovers, but is it an absolute must-go?  Maybe not.  For those new to ramen, not as crazy in love with it as I am, or for those who are in NY only for a very short time, I'd definitely recommend prioritizing Hide-Chan over Totto.

Totto Ramen

366 W 52nd Street (Bet. 8th & 9th Ave) New York, NY 10019
(212) 582-0052

Mon – Fri 12pm – 12am / Sat 12pm – 11pm / Sun 5pm – 11pm

1 comment:

Stacey said...

this was the place that lady at hide chan ramen said was number one!