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Friday, 4 July 2014

Totto Ramen - Your quick fix for authentic Japanese ramen craving in NYC


Oh yeah, you WILL BE SATISFIED.

Definitely did for me.

The first time I visited Totto Ramen, my friend was raving about how famous they were and I was like, "Whattttt... ramen when you're all the way in the States?"

I gotta admit I'm pretty ignorant about what's famous in various countries. (Imma be honest, I've never even heard of IHOP or Applebee's until I set my eyes on them but hey you can't blame me. Did you know that Katong Laksa is a local cuisine in Singapore?)

I've been incredibly lucky to be given the chance to travel around the world and discover many things.

Things like what's yummy for my mouth. Wahaha.

Okay, so I was saying that the first time I had Totto Ramen, I really didn't have much expectations since I've never heard of them. Come on, what's ramen in NYC for an Asian who obviously has easy access to authentic ramen?

But it proved to be the best meal I had throughout my 2 days stay in NYC this March 2014.

Now do note that I mentioned it was March 2014 and we all know how bitterly cold NYC's winter could be, so a bowl of decent ramen could definitely perform miracles for the soul. It would for sure revive a frozen body.

I forgot to take a picture inside the restaurant because we were starving after shopping. Also, my photography instincts tend to be displaced when I'm all wrapped up in my winter clothes. (Firstly, I feel so bulky and weighed down by those heavy clothes that it sorta wears me out. Secondly, winter clothes make me look fat so I feel less photogenic.)

Random but hey, here are pictures I took during the same March 2014 trip after having Totto Ramen! Look how happy I was.




I'm sure my taste buds might have been a tad fooled or biased considering the weather, but it sure left me satisfied. Oh, very satisfied indeed. We all were. How can a bowl of hot noodle soup with thick broth and chewy noodles not satisfy you on a cold winter day?

Not the best bowl of ramen I've ever had but definitely good enough, considering it's asian food in America. (Best I've had is Ichiran from Japan and that has remain uncontested as of today.)



And so this time, I've decided to see if Totto Ramen remains as good as my memory served me, on a scorching hot day in June. This time round, I was the one introducing my friends to Totto Ramen and it appears that I wasn't the only ignorant one. But come on, who'd expect to find ramen in NYC so good that people would rave about it so much?

Check out Totto Ramen's popularity here.
https://foursquare.com/v/totto-ramen-51/5284080311d238e02e26711b
http://www.yelp.com.sg/biz/totto-ramen-new-york


Here's information on the both their restaurants just in case you're on the road looking for Totto Ramen and somehow stumble upon my blog.

Address:
52nd Street 366 W 52nd Street (Bet. 8th & 9th Ave) New York, NY 10019

(212) 582-0052
Opening Hours:
Mon – Sat: (Lunch) 12-4:30pm, (Dinner) 5:30-12am

Sun: (Dinner) 4-11pm

Address:
On 51st Street 464 West 51st Street (Off 10th Ave) New York, NY 10019
(646) 596-9056
Opening Hours:
Mon: 5pm – 11pm
Tue – Sat: (Lunch) 12-4pm, (Dinner) 5-11pm
Sun: 12-9pm





Visited the one on 52nd Street, between 8th&9th Ave this time. Went as early as we could knowing how fast the line can form even before their opening hours. We were there almost 45 mins before opening hours and there were already 3 groups of people before us.

If it's your first time to Totto Ramen, do note that 52nd street looks rather unpromising and quiet for a famous restaurant but it's there. You might have to search a little harder as it's a level below ground level. Here I am taking a picture from ground level of my friends chatting with the customers in the line before us. (The girl so coincidentally lives in Singapore and is back in NYC visiting her grandpa and both Grandpa and her loves Totto Ramen so here they are!)



When you arrive, do put your name on the Waiting List board instead of simply joining the line because that's how the restaurant runs. You won't get a table unless your name is on that board so don't waste unnecessary time queuing up for nothing!


There probably won't be a staff out there to remind you to put your name there but he/she would be calling out names from the board. Here's my friend, August, who was so kind telling everyone who just arrived that they had to write their names on the board.



Eunice and I sitting outside, modelling for Totto Ramen while waiting for the restaurant to open. Waited 45 mins WTF.




Watch the line forming quickly over the 45 mins that we were there! This was BEFORE the restaurant even opened on a weekday afternoon at 12 pm. Told ya they were popular. But as you can see, mostly Asians in the line. Haha. Maybe it's an Asian thing you know. Asians and their need for Asian food despite being away from home, idk.


No upskirt photos, don't worry.



Once we were inside, they sat us quickly. We wanted a table away from the kitchen, but they refused us, saying that we were a 3-people party and tables were only for parties of 2 or 4. Okay, that ONE seat obviously can get traffic moving faster in that small restaurant of theirs but whatever.

We ended up sitting right opposite the kitchen. Layout of the restaurant is like this.


It would have been nice to sit there actually, watching the chefs cook away, if not for the smoke coming from the huge pots of broth giving me a chicken soup facial the entire time. As if it wasn't hot enough outside! I couldn't decide if being under the heat outside or sitting in here was more unbearable.

But I did have a premium view of how the kitchen runs. Stole nothing from their recipe though, the goodness was all in the broth which was already brewing in their pots.


Oh and this guy here glazes the pork meat which they serve in buns. Looked yummylicious but I didn't try because I was full from my ramen but he was busy, serving plates and plates of these pork buns nonstop.
Doesn't look too happy huh? Guess he's sick of his job.


Things we do while waiting.



And things we do even while not waiting. Okay, it was really more of me. August couldn't wait to dig his face into his bowl of ramen, which he did immediately after snapping this shot.



Here's my bowl of Mega Ramen - ramen topped with pork meat, garlic, onion, bean sprouts and scallions. (15.50 USD, the most expensive on the menu)

Wanted to go for the extra spicy ramen which I heard was very good too but it was too hot for me, I didn't want to sweat any further. Shall go for that in winter instead.


Check out my instavideo of the restaurant here.



Finished our noodles fast and got out of there quickly to escape the heat, as well as to give up our seats to other patrons. By then, the line was already longer than before.

Overall, I'd rate Totto Ramen a 7/10 considering it's pretty decent ramen you can find in New York.

In winter when I had it for the first time, it was probably a 8.5/10. I remember it being so heavenly I almost wiped my bowl clean of everything, even the last drop of broth. But then again, the first time's always the best while subsequent visits tend to disappoint as your expectations are harder to meet now I guess.

Both restaurants on the 51st and 52nd street had the same standard of ramen but I think the one on 51st street is bigger so you will feel less claustrophobic. But since both are really quite near to each other, you can easily walk over to the other restaurant if the line at one is ridiculously long.


Do note Totto Ramen's reservation policy! (information taken from http://tottoramen.com/)
We apologize for the inconvenience but Totto Ramen does not accept reservations, does not allow take out, and we do not deliver!