Ramen In The City

As a native New Yorker and foodie, I can honestly say that I have sampled and eaten almost everything that’s been placed in front of me. From pigs’ feet, octopus, snails, duck liver and staples like burgers & macaroni & cheese, I have enjoyed them all. That’s why when my husband insisted that I should check out a Ramen place in Manhattan, I wasn’t sure why I should. My first thought was what’s so special about this Ramen place? To me, noodles were noodles until I saw it for myself.

To start the experience, when you get to Totto Ramen, be prepared to wait. How long? Well, that depends on how many people are in front of you. Before you decide, you have to put your name down on the list, then wait until your name is called. While that seems like the usual thing to do, not for Totto Ramen. Right next to the list of names is another list of rules that they follow, with NO EXCEPTIONS. Their main rule is if you party is called and you don’t answer, your name gets scratched off. If you happen to show up after your name has been scratched off, they will not seat you; instead you have to put your name at the bottom of the list and start the wait all over again. If you think that they make exceptions, they do not.

I saw firsthand how one party whose name was called but was scratched off when they didn’t respond came back to see if they could still be seated. They were informed that they couldn’t do that since they left and there were others who were there waiting for their turn as well. Their reason for being strict about this rule was that if they made an exception for them, they would have to do it for others and they were unwilling to do that. They reminded them that the rules were listed for that reason and if they wanted to eat there, they would have to put their name back on the list and wait their turn like everyone else. As for the duration of the wait? It can be anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour or two, depending on the number of your party. Why does the number of your party make a difference? The restaurant only has one table for two and 2 tables that seat four and bar stools facing the counter that seat ten so the maximum number of people they can seat is twenty.

If what i have described above has either turned you off from ever going there or thinking that it’s not worth the wait, let me assure you that it is. As soon as I entered the restaurant, the smell of ramen in broth grabbed my olfactory senses and all I wanted to do was eat whatever they were cooking. As we were a party of two, we were seated at the counter and it was the best way to eat our meal. Seated at the counter, i saw how one chef stirred huge vats of ramen in boiling water, while the other chef prepared the meat or condiments that would go into the ramen and broth. As a first-timer, I ordered ramen with pork and added a seasoned boiled egg and seasoned avocado. The other selection was a vegetable ramen filled with mushrooms, scallions, seasoned avocado, seasoned hardboiled egg and other vegetables. Besides pork, you can have chicken, shrimp or tofu with your ramen as well as other sides to add to your meal. What was even more interesting was that if you wanted meat to go with your ramen, the chef would take out frozen meat and cook it by using a blowtorch! Lest you think that cooking meat that way would burn it, not so, as evidenced by how tender the pork was when it was served to me.

In addition to seeing how your meal was prepared, it was fun listening to the chefs singing along with the radio and greeting every customer enthusiastically. It’s not often that you get a floor show with dinner and it was quite entertaining. So if you want to know how delicious ramen can be and have an experience from start to finish, Totto Ramen is not to be missed; your wait will be rewarded by a gastronomic experience you’re not likely to forget. That’s my take on this, what’s yours?

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