Hello again, everyone! This update has been long overdue, and we are super sorry that it took this long to put up a new post. We’ve had to deal with a lot of crazy stuff in the past two months or so, including a case of bedbugs, multiple moves into new apartments and the difficulty in coordinating our very different work schedules. Thank you for bearing with us and continuing to support the blog. Now, on to the review. We love our readers and followers!
Our ninth quest took us to Totto Ramen, which has quickly garnered a reputation as one of the premier ramen shops in New York City. Our dear friend Mary joined us for her ramen initiation making our duo a trio. We ended up waiting for seats at the bar for about an hour on a Friday night at 6. From other reviews and personal experience, it seems like you will likely wait at least this long if you come at peak hours at night or on the weekend. The one thing that I wasn’t really a fan of was that they do not take your phone number so that they can call you when seats are ready. You are basically forced to wait outside the restaurant for however long is necessary or else risk your seats being given to another party. It wouldn’t be too bad, except that this tends to generate a huge crowd on the sidewalk. It was also extremely cold the night that we went. Overall, I think that Totto could do a better job at handling wait times and giving people options rather than forcing them to wait like this.
Totto’s ambiance is fantastic. It feels like a classic, traditional hole in the wall: bustling, noisy, and cramped. It is not overly sterile or stylish, but at the same time it is not gross or dirty. We got to sit right at the bar, which was cool because it puts you literally inches from the cooks dishing ramen, prepping appetizers and greeting customers. Aside from a very puzzling mix of songs that played while we enjoyed our food, Totto’s interior and overall feeling is great. The service is no-frills while staying friendly. They are obviously trying to turn seats as quickly as possible, and will do what they can to bring you your food (and the check) very quickly. As someone who generally doesn’t care for drawn out meals, I liked it. Ramen is not about taking your time, so it makes sense that the service would reflect and complement that.
Aside from a few things, Totto’s ramen was very good. Marion and I both got the miso ramen, while Mary went for the spicy variety. Once the miso paste was stirred in, the paitan chicken broth had a rich and balanced quality to it. The toppings are all on point, and I especially liked the char siu pork. I have to admit that I have been to Totto a couple times before, and I think this was the best that the food has been. I also tend to prefer pork over chicken in terms of soup, but the broth on this occasion seemed cleaner and lighter than it has in the past. Nice job there. I think our group agreed that Mary’s ramen was slightly inferior. The chili oil that they add just does not add a very desirable flavor. It is excessively peppery without being hot or spicy. But perhaps that is what they were going for. The noodles were also cooked well: springy and slightly hard yet still tender.
If you happen to be in the Theater District or Hell’s Kitchen, Totto Ramen is a solid choice for a meal. While you may have to wait for a while, the food makes it worthwhile. Get the miso ramen if you’d like a bolder take on their classic paitan standby. Unless you are really into pepper, avoid the spicy ramen. Once you get inside, try and savor the experience. Watch the cooks do their thing. Listen to the staff communicating about orders and the customers slurp down their noodles. Admire the walls and how it seems like every available space is used for something. We give Totto Ramen three and a half stars our of five.