Monday, August 29, 2011

A Mid-Summer Night's... Soup?!

On a normal basis, the only soup I'd ever eat on a summer night would be pho. But I stood in line at Totto Ramen, on a Friday, 2 nights before the anticipated landfall of Hurricane Irene, for 1 hour and 30 minutes because people have been talking about this place a good deal. And I'll tell you... it was worth it!

Why did we wait so long? Hold on, put your name on the waiting list first. Because the place is tiny and tons of people willing to wait for a seat were ahead of us. There are 9 stools at the bar and 5 very small 2 person tables all the way in the back. There are 2 chefs behind the bar and 2 waiters.

NYC is not known for many soup places, to my knowledge (so far). There's the "soup Nazi," and Chinatown's wonton soup, and even a few Vietnamese restaurants serving pho. But there are not many "ramen" places around town. Los Angeles is more well-known for serving up the hot and flavorful broths.

But wait... let me tell you about these appetizers first...

Pork Belly - 5 thinly sliced pieces cooked with a torch and plated on top of assorted greens and bean sprouts. I would guess that it was seasoned with some soy sauce which after receiving the torch gave it a little bit of glaze. It was great. I don't anywhere the serves pork belly like this.

(courtesy of our friend Jordan M.)

AvoTuna - lightly seared sashimi style tuna, thinly sliced, and served over sliced avocado. The dish is topped with some type of garlic sauce or fried garlic. The flavors together marry very well. The tenderness of the tuna match the softness of the avocado. And the almost neutral taste of the avocado with the sweetness of the tuna and the spice of the garlic is a great combination!

Spicy Tuna Don - think of a spicy tuna sushi roll unraveled, literally, served in a bowl. Multiply the flavor by 100x because you can taste so much more of it. What I found unusual was the size. It could be a meal in itself. It was certainly worth the $5.50.

And finally, what we waited all night for. It didn't really take that long. We probably ate all our food in one-third the amount of time that we waited.

Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup with a fish or meat broth, served with sliced pork, scallions, bean sprouts, and miso (or fish sauce / soy sauce).

I love my soup extremely hot and that's what I got. A bowl of piping hot miso ramen with 2 slices of pork belly, half a hard boiled egg, bean sprouts, green onions, and a scoop of miso. My noodles were perfectly cooked. I believe they use egg noodles (yellow noodles). The miso makes it a bit salty, but just the right amount of broth really balances that out. The green onions and the bean sprouts added a nice textural difference and again, also, balance out the flavors. My favorite part of the whole bowl was the pork belly, again. No surprise. It held it's flavor very well even after sitting in broth for a little bit. It's possible that the broth even supplemented the taste of the pork. All in all, it was great.

I'd go there again, but next time, I'd select a better time slot. Maybe mid-afternoon.

Totto Ramen

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