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Ippudo + Totto Ramen, New York


Very briefly, for those estranged by the term ‘ramen’, I am talking Japanese egg noodle in soup, which had an origin from China but has been refined across centuries by the Japanese. (They even write manga about it!). The key elements are the noodle and the soup. The noodle should be chewy and springs in your mouth. The soup variations are Shoyu (soy sauce based), Shio (salt based), Tonkotsu (pork gelatin/fat based), and Miso (fermented soy bean based). The toppings for a ramen vary according to the soup. More likely, you will find soft boiled eggs, toasted seaweed sheets, pickled bamboo shoots (‘menma’), and pork slices.

In London ramen isn’t quite popular just yet. (You can find some alright offering at Ittenbari, Nagomi and Roka – only Mondays – and anticipate the launch of Tsuru‘s permanent ramen site). Ramen is relatively hip in NYC..


Ippudo on Urbanspoon

Ippudo in NYC East Village is a well-known Japanese import. Shigemi Kawahara started this off as a ramen counter in 1985 in Fukuoka, specialising in tonkotsu ramen. Now the Ippudo brand has spread across Japan’s major cities and to New York. The NYC joint runs a no-reservation policy. There was a queue at lunch but thanks to the size of the place the turnover was swift. Ideal for both solo diners and groups. The setting was modern, with aggressively shout-y and friendly FOH.

I settled for a bowl of Shiromaru Hakata Classic ($14), a kind of tonkotsu with pork loin chashu, sesame kikurage mushrooms, pickled bamboo shoots and pickled ginger, with an extra soft boiled egg ($2). Very wholesome and excellently constructed. The soup was silky thanks to the skillfully-infused pork fat and boast a great depth of flavours. It was, surprisingly, light and didn’t leave a dreadful greasy texture or aftertaste. The finer kind of noodle was used (as typical in any tonkotsu ramen) and was so nicely cooked it left a little bit of chewy-ness; the chashu slices had the best(est) ratio of melting fat and meaty tenderness; the bamboo shoots added musty taste to the soup; the sesame a hint of sweet nutty aroma; the soft-boiled egg was.. heaven.

Highly recommend this place :-9

Totto Ramen

Totto Ramen on Urbanspoon

Totto Ramen was a hole-in-the-wall ramen bar and accordingly much more difficult to get into than Ippudo. The queue started to form an hour or so before the opening hours. No reservation policy and I was asked to write my name down, which would be called out when the seat became free. Ideal for no more than 2-3 diners. (It took a while and I decided to wait by snacking bulgogi sliders at a next-door Korean bar). Inside there was a ramen bar and some tables. The scene was thumpingly swift and very Japanese.

My Totto Extra Spicy Ramen ($10.75) was flawed. The soup, here called ‘paitan’ meaning ‘milky’, was a concoction of tonkatsu-style broth but (I assume) made from chicken instead of pork. Too light and too loose, the soup was quite one dimensional, when compared to Ippudo. It was also so erroneously hot that it double-cooked the fine noodle and the beansprouts to unappealing softness. The only redeeming feature was the generous bowl of spooky and piquant rayu chilli oil with deep-fried, chopped garlic. The chashu slices had a dense charred crust. The boiled egg cost $1 extra.

RATING: 4.5, 3/5


65 Fourth Avenue
New York

Tel. 001 212 388 0088


366 West 52nd Street
New York

Tel. 001 212 582 0052


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  2. Goddamnit when will they open an Ippudo in London? Hong Kong has one now! I arrived at 10:45 so walked straight in when it opened at 11am – a ramen brunch is a perfect way to start the day. Shame about Totto, especially after that wait.

    • theskinnybib

      @MrNoodle I’d die to have Ippudo here!!!

      @Lizzie You are so disciplined!! I aimed for luck but from what I had I’d love to go back. The brunch is amazing value (and quite a lot of food!). The Totto might have been good if I ordered something else. Saw sea urchin rice on the special board when I was half way into my noodle :-(

  3. Natalie

    We have just returned from NY. We were going to go to Totto but the queues put us off. Did you try Hide Chan Ramen in NYC. We liked the Kuro Garlic version. We are looking for a decent Ramen in London but it doesn’t sound like there are any?

    • theskinnybib

      Hi Natalie,

      I didn’t get to try Hide Chan Ramen (but noted for next time!). I did Totto, Ippudo and Momofuku Noodle Bar back to back to compare and indulge!! There are hardly any (or not at all in my very honest opinion) alright ramen in London. Ittenbari on Brewer Street (which is a Japanese import) is so-so, though the most authentic. The new ramen+bar Tonkotsu (post coming soon) was nowhere near NYC, let alone Japan. That said, good ramen might happen in London one day…

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