• 464 West 51st Street
• New York, NY 10019
• (646) 596-9056 •
Rent is expensive, taxis are expensive, Ubers are surge-priced, cigarettes are $13 per pack, cocktails are $15 each, parking your car in a garage is ridiculous, homeless people hang out at the ATM and ask if you have a spare twenty, dating requires taking out a personal loan. Is it any wonder that New Yorkers cherish the our subway (go anywhere for $2.75) and the simple slice of pizza (priced to match the subway), flock in droves to free movies in the park, love our free museums (you should donate though), wait for hours to get access to sample sales, and line up down the block for halal cart lunch? Is it any wonder that this city has embraced ramen soup, a huge bowl of deliciousness for a fraction of what one would expect to pay based on a price-per-square-taste-bud of flavor? No longer limited to a home where NYU students roam, Ramen spots have exploded across the city, even finding their way to my roost in Forest Hills, Queens.
This particular excursion was to Totto Ramen, which routinely makes it to the top of best-of lists. Totto may have started off as a decrepit hole-in-the-wall, but it's expanded into a mini-chain with three NYC locations, two Boston locations, and one in Taipei. Mr. Dogz and I headed over to the Hell's Kitchen location, which is larger than it's original location a couple blocks away, though, as you can see in the photo, "large" is relative. As is common with almost all Ramen spots of any worth, the waits at Totto are routinely long and a table for two was a half hour long at 6:30pm. Arrive early.
Upon sitting down and choosing a bottle of sake, we first ordered the Takoyaki to start. Takoyaki is dough-wrapped octopus drizzled with a sweet soy glaze and healthy amount of mayonnaise. Dogz liked it, but I'll be frank, this was not my thing. I take that back, it was pretty bad. I've always had a penchant for wacky Japanese food (or wacky any food, for that matter), but alongside pig-placenta juice and bacon-bubblegum soda, I'm taking a pass on any future mayo soaked fried octopus dishes that come my way.
The ramen was another story. Totto serves its ramen paitan-style, meaning "creamy". Compared to other ramen places that I've been to, it's very apt. The broth at Totto is extremely rich. Not merely heavy, but HEAVY. Umami to the umamiest degree. Dogz ordered the Miso Paitan (bottom pick), ramen in a rich miso broth with yellow noodles, egg, bean sprouts, scallions, onion, and pork. I ordered the Spicy Paitan, the "signature" ramen broth with spicy sesame oil, straight noodles, scallions, bean sprouts, seaweed, and a slab of pork. Of course, I also ordered a soft-boiled egg because if you don't like adding an egg to your ramen, then there's something missing in whatever hollow rock you've got buried in you masquerading for a soul.
I found that my spicy ramen was less hot-spicy than tangy-spicy, so those of you with an aversion to hot food should not have a problem. To put it crudely, I did not feel the heat the next day, if you catch my drift. So how hot could it have been? Both ramens were delicious and, like I said, rich and heavy and coats your mouth in flavor with each sip like melted butter. I left winded and could not finish the bowl. If anything, the broth was too rich. The pork was delicious and tender but the noodles were a little stiff for my taste. I'd have loved Totto to have loaded more veggies into the soup, but for a few extra bucks you can throw plenty more in, the way I did with my extra egg.
Totto Ramen did not bump Long Island City's Mu Ramen from the top spot in terms of flavor in my personal opinion, nor is it as sexy as the trendy and refined Ippudo near Union Square. Cost-wise Totto's ramen is $12 per base bowl, while Mu and Ippudo cost $16. Hardly enough of a difference to sway anyone who isn't destitute, so try them and base your opinion on what you think tastes best or suits your desired atmosphere, but make sure try Totto. It's good. Very good. And I'd certainly go back if I was in the neighborhood.
Totto Ramen is cash only.