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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

NYC Apr12 - Ramen Showdown: Totto vs. Ippudo

I love ramen...too bad there isn't really a good place in Dallas. I've heard that NYC has lots of great ramen places so I was pretty excited. The only thing is that they are always busy and normally do not take reservations so you have to wait. We flew into NYC last Wednesday night. Got in around 10pm, picked up a friend and went straight to Totto Ramen. He highly recommended Totto, but said that Ippudo was better.

Totto Ramen
366 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 582-0052
Price: $$

This was a hole in the wall...maybe about 15-20 seats total with the kitchen right in front of the seats. You put your name and party size on the clipboard on the front door and you basically just wait. If they call your name and you are not there, then too bad... It was slightly cold and a little rainy and there wasn't really covered waiting area. :( I'm hoping this was really worth it! I peruse the menu multiple times while waiting. They all sound soo good!

Finally we were seated along the bar. We could see the guys cooking the noodles and other items. It was very entertaining.
The whole vibe was just very casual, very Japanese.

My friend ordered the Miso Ramen (the finest Koji Miso and ground pork in a scoop atop slightly wavy noodles in original Paitan soup. Topped with a seasoned hardboiled egg, scallion, bean sprouts, and onion) $10.75~
I believe he had to add extra corn in it. This wasn't your normal miso ramen. The scoop of miso and ground pork on top elevated the flavors. The miso flavor was so rich and bold. He said that the miso ramen at Ippudo was ever better. That totally got my expectations up!

I opted for the Char Siu Mayo Don (house special broiled pork with yuzu mayonnaise on a bed of rice) $5.50~
I wasn't too hungry plus I wanted to try something different. So I ate some of my bf's ramen and ordered this. The yuzu mayo is what intrigued me the most. It was a pretty hefty bowl but it was mostly rice. I wish they had put 1/3 less rice and more pork. The pork was broiled with a handheld blowtorch. You can see them doing it in front of you. Pretty cool! The pork was super fatty which I like, but along with the mayo it got a bit much. The yuzu mayo was interesting. The yuzu added a citrusy punch to it and was able to cut the creaminess of the mayo a bit. The combination of the pork, rice, scallions, and mayo was very simple but totally worked together. The rice was cooked perfectly.

My bf chose the Niku-Ramen (topped with variety of Pork meants, garlic, bean sprouts and scallions) $15~ It wasn't listed on the regular menu. There was a separate sign on the wall.
The picture definitely looked better than the actual product though.

We expected wayyyy more meat. But it was really good. The noodles were cooked perfectly and the broth had a ton of flavor. Although after we finished all the noodles the broth became a bit too salty to finish on its own.

Overall, we loved it. Everything was cooked perfectly and I really liked the hole in the wall setting. The service was pretty good for the setting. Everyone greeted us as we sat down and left at the end. And our waitress was nice.

Quality of Food:




Overall Experience:

The next night, Thursday, we planned on going to Ippudo to make a comparison. My friend says that on the weekends it gets ridiculously packed so it's better to go late on a week night to attempt to get in. He said Ippudo was the most popular US business on Yelp.

65 4th Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 388-0088
Price: $$

We arrived at 9PM and was told there was an hour and half wait. Sigh... This is why they don't take reservations. They don't need to! The place was totally not what I expected. For some reason I thought it was going to be a hole in the wall too. Not at all! It was modern, trendy and much much bigger than Totto.

We were seated in a little over an hour. They have booth seating for larger parties and then large tables like cafeteria style where you have to sit with other people. I thought it was cool that you can see into the kitchen where they were cooking as well. The decor was cool, but I was a bit disappointed that it was a trendy, main stream hot spot.

We started with Hirata Buns (2 pieces) (steamed buns filled with pork served with Ippudo's original spicy mayo buns sauce) $9~

A lot of people told us this was really good so I wanted to give it a try. Sooo expensive for 2 tiny pork buns?! Craziness! But I do have to say it was delicious. I loved the sauce on the pork and it was cooked well. I wouldn't order it again though, wayyy too expensive for what you get.

I shared the Noodle Master's Special: Kasane Black (topped with pork loin chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, red pickled ginger, naruto, scallions, and fragrant "Black" garlic oil) $16~ with a friend since we weren't super hungry.
The black garlic was interesting. It added a slight sweetness to the broth. I thought for the price, they didn't give us enough stuff in the noodle... We got like maybe 3 small leaves of cabbage??
And the noodles themselves... Sigh. I thought they were cooked well, but they are thin and straight, not my definition of ramen. I was actually more reminded of the Chinses Yang Chun Mian, normally made with a simple light broth. My parents grew up eating it in Taiwan because it was cheaper to buy). They used similar thin noodles like that... (If you are Chinese you might know what I'm talking about.) I like the curly noodles much better. So I felt like I was just eating some regular Asian noodle dish as opposed to Japanese ramen. Now, I know there are different types of noodles used in ramen but I really just prefer the curly kind. They were cooked al dente but eh...I wasn't feeling it too much.

My bf got the Akamaru Modern (the original silky Tonkotsu soup noodles topped with Ippudo's secret "Umami Dama" miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikuage mushrooms, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil) $15~
The waiter said this was one of their most popular choices. The broth in this was awesome. I liked it so much more than ours. But same complaint here. The same thin noodles and not enough stuff for the price. My bf actually thought his noodles were undercooked. He didn't like this style either. I do have to say that I like his broth a little better than the broth at Totto though.

The quality of ingredients were all there, but I just didn't care for the noodles. And I believe we're paying high dollar for mostly the setting. But our waiter was really nice and accommodating. And everyone greeted us as we walked in and out.

Quality of Food:




Overall Experience:

I would say Totto is the hands down Winner in my book (my bf's as well). Ippudo didn't live up to the hype for me. I was turned off by the style of noodle as well as the trendy setting. I enjoyed the quality and ambiance of Totto better. It felt like you were in Japan (or so I was told since I haven't been there). Plus Totto is a little bit cheaper. But if you don't take my word for it, go to both and judge it for yourself. hehe. Everyone has different opinions!

**I also have to add that the Shio Ramen in Santouka at Mitsuwa Marketplace in LA is still my favorite ramen of all time!!**



  1. I love Santouka as well!! Really salty, but I love the spicy miso!!

  2. YAY! I also have to pay more and get the special pork at Santouka!! :) Drooooool....