Thursday, February 24, 2011

Totto Ramen

On Tuesday night I went to Totto Ramen with Alice.  We arrived around 7 and saw that we would have to wait, as I expected from reading Yelp reviews of the tiny restaurant.  I also had read that you have to write your own name and number of guests down on the list that hangs on the door, which turned out to be true.  We waited for about 20 minutes in the crowded plastic lobby that has been attached to the front of the building, and we were finally seated at the bar looking right onto the cooks.  I love sitting at sushi or ramen bars because I think it is so cool to watch your food being made right in front of you.  We saw the cooks using a blowtorch to cook the char siu pork that is in many of the soups, and huge pots full of onions and chickens being turned into fresh broth.  The Totto Ramen menu boasts that the food is MSG free, which is always a good sign.  We ordered the Avo Tuna to share to start and each had the Totto Miso Ramen, mine with rayu, spicy sesame oil on the side, and Alice's with seasoned avocado.

The Avo Tuna was not on the menu but it was on a sign on the wall with a few other starters that were available.  It was seared tuna sashimi served with avocado, beansprouts, scallions, and a balsamic vinaigrette.  I haven't often ventured into the world of sashimi, but I thought the tuna at Totto was delicious.  It went well with the avocado and the dressing really brought it together.  I don't want to say too much because I don't know much about sashimi, but the more I try it the more I like it these days.
It was hard to hate the ramen after watching it be born from scratch right before my eyes.  The broth had a strong chicken flavor and once I mixed in the miso placed on top and a bit of the rayu it was quite tasty and had a nice bite.  I really like when the miso is in a scoop on top because when concentrated it is deliciously salty and sweet.  This reminded of the Buta Miso that I had at Koya in London.  The char siu pork was very tender, and quite fatty as pork slices sometimes are.  I obviously loved having the egg in the bowl but I wish there were two halves instead of one.  The noodles seemed fresh and were firm but not to the point where they seemed undercooked.  
I got so full that I couldn't even finish the whole bowl, but I couldn't keep myself from drinking more and more of the broth.  I wasn't expecting much from Totto Ramen because from my online research it seemed a bit overpriced and possibly overrated, but my experience there definitely surpassed my expectations.  Alice had a glass of Hakushika Extra Dry Sake and I had a Sapporo, and our bill came to around $40.00.  The ramen was $10.25 per bowl; I usually don't pay over $10.00 for a bowl of ramen, so I wouldn't pay much more than what I paid at Totto unless I was expecting an amazing experience.  Side note:  Totto Ramen is the sister-restaurant to midtown's Hide-Chan, of which I have heard mixed reviews.

For the price-range and the midtown location I definitely think Totto Ramen is worth another visit, especially if you don't mind waiting a few minutes at the door!

Totto Ramen: 366 W. 52nd St. Between 8th and 9th Aves. (212) 582-0052

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