For Japanese in Midtown New York, try Totto Ramen or Yakitori Totto…or both
Good Japanese food is lacking in Midtown Manhattan, so what to do if you’re hit with a sudden craving for ramen or yakitori whilst trekking around the business center of New York City?
There are two viable options, and if you’re lucky (or show up right as they open), your wait will be bearable.
The first time my cousin took me to Totto Ramen was five years ago. We waited nearly 90 minutes for Saturday lunch, and it was a painful wait because there was really no place nearby to kill time (e.g. coffeeshops, bars, or boutiques). That’s because the space is teeny-tiny, but they’ve since opened another nearby location, which I’d like to think somewhat alleviated the occupancy jam.
The last two times I went with the hubs, there was, at most, a 15-minute wait. Here at Totto, the specialty is the chicken-based ramen (listed on the menu as “chicken paitan”), not the more common creamy, rich, porky broth of tonkotsu. It’s nice when you’re looking for a lighter option, as tonkotsu can often feel heavy. The chicken paitan consists of a chicken and soy sauce broth with homemade noodles and topped with scallion, barbecued pork, and nori. The broth of the chicken paitan ramen is full of umami, but on another occasion, I found the chicken meat itself sadly dry.
The miso at Totto Ramen is fantastic—my cousin, who lived in Japan for two years and is a self-proclaimed ramen aficionado—says Totto serves some of the best miso ramen this side of the Pacific. Totto’s miso version contains koji miso in the original paitan soup, ground pork, boiled egg, bean sprouts, scallion, and barbecued pork.
Avoid the tsukemen, or dipping ramen though—it was no bueno.
The sister restaurant, Yakitori Totto, offers what you’d expect from a yakitori: chicken parts and other meats grilled to smoky perfection. I’ve been to Yakitori Totto for both lunch and dinner, and have not had a single disappointing item here. Sushi, seafood, grilled skewers,veggies—all delicious and don’t leave you feeling like you need a nap afterwards.
The small restaurant is located up the stairs inside a building. We dropped in once for lunch right as they opened and were seated immediately. Reservations are recommended, though, especially for dinner. Totto Ramen, on the other hand, does not take reservations, so wait at your own risk!
Totto Ramen – second location
464 W. 51st St. (Between 9th & 10th Ave.)
New York, NY 10019
251 W. 55th St. (Between Broadway & 8th Ave.)
New York, NY 10019
Phone: +1 212 245-4555