Once a week, my coworker/friend/co-foodie, Stella and I grab lunch in New York during an extended lunch break. We have come to realize that it is one of the things each week that keeps us going in our grueling jobs in finance and we want to share our love of food and experiences with you!
The plan: to post about our NYC food experiences. We will rotate who writes each week…and I’m up first!
Today, we went to Totto Ramen on 52nd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. Totto’s original location is in Hell’s Kitchen, but its popularity brought it to Midtown. The one thing I will say before talking about the food is this; you will wait at least 45 minutes if you go during the lunch or dinner rush. The place is always packed, does not take reservations, and is CASH ONLY.
The waiter sat us in back where plywood was decorated with Totto inspired graffiti and hung to decorate the walls. The lighting was calming and the aroma welcoming. We started with the Char Siu Pork Bun (two for $6), which were nothing short of perfection. The pork belly was cooked to the proper temperature and fell apart in your mouth. The hoisin sauce was thick, sticky, and smooth, was extenuated with a light swipe of mayonnaise, and piece of iceberg lettuce. That brings me to the bun, which was warm, soft, and delightful.
The one thing with Totto is, when you go early, you get your food extremely fast. Our ramen came out before we were finished with the pork buns. At times, this can be quite a turn-off, but because we were mid-workday, it was welcome. We promptly received the check without asking which was marked with what an 18-percent tip would be; another situation that maybe off-putting to some.
When I asked Stella how she would describe her Spicy Paitan with Pork ($12) and Poached Egg ($2), she immediately responded "creamy, rich, wavy, flavorful, hearty". I couldn’t agree more.
I ordered the Chicken Paitan with Pork ($10) and Poached Egg ($2). To piggy back on what Stella said, the broth, though without dairy, was creamy in its own right; the flavor was amazing. The noodles were cooked perfectly and the firmness was just right. The pork and chicken were hearty. I’d never seen such a beautifully poached egg. The nori was deliciously crisp and finally, the scallions and onions were fresh.
I added pepper, based on personal preference, and rather than hiding flavor, it truly enhanced it. I cannot tell you of an experience where I’ve had such delicious ramen.
Overall, I would give this place a 4.5/5 stars. How did they lose the half star? Stella and I both agreed that the poached egg wasn’t worth $2 based on the other item prices on the menu. But, if that’s our only complaint, then I would say Totto Ramen is a keeper.