🙂 = Only two block from the Lexington Ave/53rd St subway stop. Service is crazy quick. But not so quick that you feel like you’re being rushed out.
🙁 = No changing tables, high chairs, boosters, changing table, or kids eat free options. There is no kids’ menu. But really, what kid doesn’t like noodles? Still, there are side dishes that work out to be perfect child size portions. Parking? Good luck with that.
Notes: Midtown East hours are M-F 11:45A-3P and 5:30P-11:30P, Sat 1P-11:30P, Sun 4:30P-10:30P. There are also locations at Midtown West, Hell’s Kitchen, as well as, Boston MA. I’m unsure of the other locations, but Midtown East is cash only.
Tips: If you’re traveling with a stroller, be prepared to fold it up and leave it at the front of the restaurant. There is just no space at the bar or in the back dining area to accommodate them. Infant car seats will have to be placed on a chair against the wall since there are no high chairs and no room on the floor (the space is that tight). It’s also probably best to keep your group at a max of four people. Anything more than that and you’ll most likely be sitting at separate tables.
I remember watching “The Mind of A Chef” with David Chang on Netflix. That’s my dawg! NoVa born and raised, ya’ll! Anyhoo, the very first episode was about noodles. With a focus on ramen. Said that instant ramen was invented in 1954 by a dude with a kick-butt name, Momofuku Ando. He created it as an affordable means to feed his post-war weary countryman. What a totally rad thing for someone to do! What’s even radder is how far-reaching his efforts have gone to curb hunger to this day. Namely among po’, broke college students. Pops was one of ‘em. And if he didn’t have boiling water handy, he ate that jonx like a cracker. What the heck, dude! That’s gonna be my new “yo mama/yo daddy” joke. Yo daddy so poor…he po’! Can’t afford the last two letters. Or boiling water.
For real though, this is, unfortunately, how a lot of people are introduced to ramen. The .39 cent, MSG-loaded-but-still-delicious kind of ramen. Youngins like myself are no exception. That’s why my first “true” ramen experience had me like a Japanese noodle Buddha…achieving ramen enlightenment!
The plan was to take the subway, hit up Little Tokyo, and find a place to eat for dinner. But a full day of peepin’ on Miss Liberty from Governor’s Island and trekkin’ the Brooklyn Bridge in 90 degree heat had a little homie like, “nope!” So we decided on Totto Ramen, just two blocks from our hotel, through the advice of my Auntie NY Fabulous…and over 3000 Yelpers.
This place was tiiiiight! In terms of both space and urban slang-ery. There was a ramen bar facing the open kitchen once we walked in. And after about a 5-minute wait, we were escorted down the length of the bar toward the back and found a hidden dining room with no more than 8 tables – four short 4-tops on the left and four tall 6-tops on the right. (A top is how many people a table can accommodate. So a 4 top seats 4 people.) Strangers were even sharing tables to eliminate wait times.
But man! This place was just oozing “minimalist hip”. From the exterior metal siding, oriented strand-board walls, and jet black paint to the cute-as-a-doll waitresses and cooks with the Daniel-San, Karate Kid headbands manning the kitchen. It was pretty sweet. But that ramen though…
The folks actually ordered me a small bowl of Char Siu Mayo Don. Char Siu literally means “fork burn.” And it gave the chicken a caveman-esque kind of smoky taste that blew our socks off! Well, we were actually wearing slippers…cause we’re Asian. But you get the picture. That smoky flavor, combined with pop’s favorite mayo, Kewpie, over rice had us all like “Whoa!” Easily the best and most unique chicken we’ve tasted. But did I mention that ramen though?
Granted, my only other experience with ramen was the kind daddy hearted in college. Still, this? This was on a whole notha’ level! I’m honestly thinking that I am to ramen what dad is to brisket (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out my other posts – my old dude is a total brisket groupie.)
Totto specializes in Paitan – a creamier chicken based broth as opposed to the more popular pork based tonkatsu (peep the link for various ramen styles). Mama got the ever popular Miso Ramen with pork belly that she shared with me. Yo! One bite and I was like “Nissin what?” Forgot all about that instant jonx with the quickness! You know about fortified wines? I don’t. But pops says it’s wine with some kind of spirit added to it. Well, this was like fortified soup. Chicken and miso broth mixed with the Holy Spirit! Had me and mom dukes screamin’ “Hallelujah!” Mi papito had the Spicy Nibo with pork belly, which had notes of spicy fish flavor added to the paitan. Pops was like, “smells like fish but tastes like amazeballs!” Said it had a distinct umami flavor. I didn’t understand what mommy had to do with ramen. But whatevs. I just know he enjoyed it.
So yeah. Not only was my first non-instant-ramen experience a success, it was in New York of all places! Foodie capital of ‘Murica. That’s what I’m talkin’ bout! Can I get an Amen? Nope. But I can get you a R-AMEN!
And on that corny note, I’m out!