New York’s noodle-licious Totto RamenBy Aissa dela Cruz
Cebu Daily News
THE FIRST time we ate in Totto Ramen, which is rated as one of the best ramen house in New York City, we queued for an hour. Back then, the weather was nippy so New Yorkers were craving for piping hot, filling ramen in creamy Paitan broth to sooth cold-weary bodies.
Lately, with summer at its peak, the waiting line has abated but the narrow, alley-like ramen place is still packed with “slurpers.” Located in West 52nd street in Midtown Manhattan, Totto Ramen truly serves the best ramen I have ever eaten.
The place is inconspicuously located a few steps below the street level. A clipboard hangs at the entrance where diners scribble their names to get a seat.
They do not accept reservations. The Japanese food attendants are young and friendly. The place sits 20 to 25 people with no space to move about. If one is lucky and can score a seat on the counter /bar, watching the cooks behind assemble the ramen soup is an added treat. How they can come out with the steaming, noodle-licious bowls of ramen from such a narrow and small workplace is totally amazing. Every bowl of ramen is prepared behind the counter/bar where a young Japanese cook stirs the cauldron of boiling broth, skillfully sears the thin slices of pork with velvety layers of fat with propane-fueled torch that tops the springy, firm and chewy ramen swimming in creamy Paitan broth. The steam from the huge vat of boiling Paitan broth adds to the sweltering heat but people do not seem to mind.
After several trips to Totto Ramen, I no longer check the short menu since I already know what I like—Totto Spicy Ramen with a choice of Char Siu Pork or Chicken. I indulge and always choose the seared slices of pork, original rayu (Japanese chili oil), spicy sesame oil that gives a kick and refreshing aftertaste to the Paitan broth and ramen with generous servings of thin slices of scallions, bean sprouts and nori. House specialty Paitan broth is made from chicken bones boiled for several hours. The bones are rich in collagen and fat that renders the milky color and creamy consistency.to the broth. Patricia and her kids Silvian and Sabrina enjoy the Totto Miso Ramen topped with the finest Koji miso and ground pork in a scoop, seasoned half-cooked egg, Char Siu chicken, the springy ramen in original Paitan broth. Silvian always gets an extra bowl of ramen noodles.
There are several choices of side dishes, which we order, more out of curiosity, since the huge bowl of piping hot ramen fills us up. We had the Avo Tuna—torched tuna sashimi with avocado marinated in special yuzu-garlic sauce and topped with scallions. Yuzu or Japanese lemons are available only in Japan.
By the time we wolfed down the delicious ramen, our brows were all sweaty.
It is just unbelievable what ramen lovers like us endure, from the queuing to get seats, the steamy heat and bustle of a narrow outlet, just to have a fill of this glorious Japanese creation.