Last fall we were in New York City for work and stayed in the Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood of Manhattan. Seeing that we were trying to play it cheap, we wanted to be able to walk around to our place of eating without needing to pay for cab to get there. After searching I came across Totto Ramen.
I want to put this into context for you guys; Ben and I got here 30 minutes before opening and this is what we saw A HUGE LINE-UP! But you know what…. THE LINE-UP DOESN’T EVEN MATTER! I say this because as a tourist I did not realize that you can actually SIGN YOUR NAME ON THE SHEET THAT’S ON THEIR DOOR! Yup, this came to us as we stood all the way at the back of the line and waited patiently like most regular people (for 20 odd minutes) only to notice the frequency of people going to the doors. Then we realized that they go by the list of names on the sheet, so you can really hang out anywhere on the sidewalk, it doesn’t matter as long as your name is on that sheet, you’re guaranteed a spot. No need to wait in some ridiculous line up.
Therefore, after waiting about an hour outside the restaurant and waiting for our names to be called (and honestly folks, the wait isn’t that long, average wait time for a person who goes in- eats- pays- and gets out is approximately 15 – 20 minutes). They waste no time here, you get in, get what you want, eat and get out. The restaurant itself is very small so don’t think you come in with a group of 6 and get a table and be comfortable. There’s probably less than 20 seats in this place so they do need to do a quick turnover.
Once you get in, it’s a beautiful site to be seen.
We were lucky to be seated at the counter and seeing where all the action happens. Their mise en place was super organized, super clean which allowed the chef to be super quick (like watching ballet while playing it fast forward).
What makes Totto Ramen different compared to Ippudo or Hide-Chan Ramen is that this place specializes in a chicken broth(paitan) base for their ramen versus your standard pork broth. Much lighter in taste, but just as delicious.
We both got their Totto Spicy Ramen for $11.00 and we each added a Seasoned Boiled Egg for $1.00, Corn for $1.00, and Bamboo shoots for a $1.00 extra. The ramen consisted of their Original Rayu which is their spicy sesame oil which is added to their Paitan broth (consisting of a whole chicken boiled with their premium soy sauce), topped with scallions, bean sprouts and nori. We had a choice of chicken or pork meat and we both chose pork; which was a well seasoned cooked pork belly which was then seared with a hand-held blow torch before it went into your bowl. The pork itself was melt-in-your-mouth tender and wonderfully delicious. The broth was well seasoned and light, the spicy sesame oil did add a nice kick to the soup and has nice earthy roasted sesame flavour. The noodles were cooked perfectly al dente and not too filling (as I find some ramen noodles to be really thick and heavy). The portion sizes were perfect and the service was efficient and very nice.
The additional toppings really helped round out this bowl of noodles with their own flavours and textures. The Seasoned Boiled Egg was the star of the additional toppings we’ve added. It is basically a soy marinated egg that had a runny yolk. I don’t know how to get this perfect of a yolk in a boiled egg but egg was the best $1.00 I’ve ever spent.
This ramen shop also notes that it doesn’t add MSG to it’s broth which is a major plus because I do get that numb feeling in my neck and shoulders when I do get a hit of MSG in my dishes. I didn’t get that from this place, instead we both walked out full and satisfied. A lot of people asked me if this place was better than Ippudo in the East Village and my answer would be- no. Ippudo is not better rather than different. You have different style of ramen. At Totto Ramen, I feel that the ramen is a little more traditional and humble while Ippudo’s is a whole other level of ramen. I had ramen at Ippudo’s before my blogging days and I remember it had Monk Fish Liver (which was ah-mazing) … sooo if that doesn’t help you realize the difference between the two I don’t know what will.
– SIGN YOUR NAME ON THE SHEET AT THE DOOR!!!!! (Cannot emphasize this enough!)
– Cash Only
– Line-up is quick, definitely a place where chopstick pros go to.
– No MSG
– Good for the singles and couples, people in large groups may have a harder time due to the lack of tables and space
– HOURS: Mon – Fri 12pm – 12am; Sat 12pm – 11pm; Sun 5pm – 11pm
– No Delivery and No Take-Out available.