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Friday, June 17, 2011

Totto-ly Ramen

"Avo Tuna" (Torched tuna sashimi with avocado
marinated in yuzu garlic sauce, topped with scallion)
"Totto spicy ramen" (Rayu spicy sesame oil, topped with scallion,
bean sprouts, char siu pork and nori)
Side of spicy bamboo shoots
Spicy bamboo shoots and a small dab of very spicy sesame oil (rayu)
Making ramen in the small kitchen: guy on left cooks noodles...
...guy on right makes broth...
...guy in middle pours broth...
...and torches char siu (on right)
Waiting customers.
Put your name on the list hanging on the door
LOCATION: Totto Ramen, 366 W 52nd Street (between 8th and 9th Ave) New York, NY 10019
CATEGORY: Japanese, ramen
DRINK: Tap water
WE THINK: Totto Ramen is tiny. Like a ramen bar in Japan. A few tables but mostly seats at the bar where the ramen is cooked. We had already been warned that we might have to wait in line so we decided to go early on a weekday--at 12.05pm (they open at 12.00pm)--to beat the crowds. That didn't work. At Totto you have to write your name on the sheet of paper hanging on the door and wait outside on the sidewalk for your name to be called. We did that, all hungry and sweaty in the heat, observing what was a confusing and seemingly random seating of people. 40 minutes later we got a seat at the bar where we ordered from one of the 3 chefs. He warned us that the "Totto extreme spicy ramen" that we had our eyes on was actually "extremely spicy" so we agreed to get the extra rayu (spicy sesame oil) on the side so we could experiment. A very good idea because that stuff is spicy! The ramen was delicious--fresh and al dente--and the broth was tasty--a Paitan broth made with whole chicken and soy sauce that simmers all day in the giant vats behind the bar. Toppings included scallion, onion, char siu pork, an egg and nori. In addition, we had ordered a side of very spicy bamboo shoots which weren't necessary. We also ordered a tuna sashimi starter which was too garlicky. Taking pictures wasn't easy as pretty much everyone else sitting at the bar were taking photos for their own food blogs, lens caps, camera cases and straps dangling all over the place, which made us hate ourselves and them at the same time.
OUR TIP:  In retrospect, it seems obvious: go off-peak, late lunch or early dinner, to avoid the crowds.

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