The menu at Totto Ramen is simple: six entrees with a handful of complimentary toppings. Owner Bobby Munekata, of Yakitori Totto and Hide Chan, doesn’t overwhelm with convoluted menus. Totto Ramen does one thing really well: ramen. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a place doing this dish better in the city. The noodles here are housemade, but the highlight for most is the boiled pork which is charred with a blowtorch in front of customers.
The line outside often begins forming an hour before opening. The first time I dined here, I arrived on a Sunday evening at 3:56 p.m. The restaurant didn’t open for another four minutes but there were already 19 people ahead of me. This means if you show up after 4 p.m., bring a book to keep yourself occupied … or a friend if you have one of those. Totto Ramen is small, and despite opening franchises in other cities and parts of Manhattan, its popularity in Hell’s Kitchen has not diminished.
I ordered the Totto Extra Spicy Ramen with char siu pork. The dish is prepared with original rayu, spicy sesame oil, Paitan ramen, scallion, bean sprouts and nori. I added an extra side of avocado for texture and because, well, I’m from California. Simply stated though: the combination was spectacular. The noodles were hearty, padded with flavors from the chicken based broth. And the swine was mouthwatering, melting like butter when chewed all the while maintaining a blow torch crispy feel. This dive into heaven only set me back $12.75, which for it’s quality and location, is one of the better culinary steals in New York. You can do far worse in Hell Kitchen’s for far more money.
I don’t want to pretend to be some ramen snob, but I’ve eaten enough around the world to say confidently that is one of the better bowls you can find. And there’s also the general travel rule that if you see a line outside of a restaurant, and the people aren’t wearing fanny-packs or man-buns, it’s probably a place you want to check out. Totto Ramen is a local favorite, and a definite must if you’re in the Big Apple and craving some noodles.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in 2013 but has been updated to reflect new information.