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Totto Ramen

Most of us are familiar with ramen, the Japanese noodle, in its instant form boiled down to the dull consistency of mush and soaked with MSG-laden miso soup that’s more water than miso. But for really good authentic ramen, look no farther than mid-town Manhattan’s Totto Ramen, offering freshly brewed broth and chewy noodles that actually taste egg-y. The younger and less expensive rival of Ippudo, Totto restaurant offers a limited palate of ramen and meager side dishes, but a smorgasbord of toppings and your choice of pork or chicken to go along with your noodles. In other words, it may be minimalist but it does what it does well.

Totto’s small crowded space means long lines, a waitlist, and often tables shared with strangers during lunchtime. One can opt to take a bar stool instead, and watch cooks practice their forte, or avoid the eatery’s unusual noontime opening rush by dining at a later hour. Prepare to bring green moola to this cash-only, no-advanced-reservations establishment.

For first timers, Totto Miso Ramen is the most appealing ramen to try with basic garnishes such as a boiled egg, scallions, and thick miso paste. Those who want a little raw sashimi with their modest-sized meal may want to nip at the Avo Tuna appetizer before happily tucking in.

Totto Ramen
366 W 52nd Street (Between 8th & 9th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
(212) 582-0052

Totto Miso Ramen $10.50
Avo Tuna $4.50

Writer’s Tip: If you want to share your meal, make sure to ask the wait staff for an additional empty bowl. Extra utensils will already be provided on your table.


Joe’s Shanghai

(image from Joe’s Shanghai)

Joe’s Shanghai in New York City is a popular lunch spot with white collar workers and out-of-towners, but don’t be fooled by the lack of locals. It’s worth the fifteen minute wait to get inside. In an area focused on cooking from Canton (the sweet and sour sensibility that gave you well, sweet and sour pork), this Shanghai-ese nonconformist boasts what few in the neighborhood can: really good xiao long bao, or the veritable soup dumpling (technically, bun) that’s tricky to eat, but so good going down.

Joe’s serves two types – pork vs. pork with a crab garnish. There’s barely a difference between the two (the crab tastes a bit more fishy), but at low prices at eight steamed dumplings per order, it’s less than wallet-breaking to go with both instead of just the former. The skins are thick, and the pork and soup contained within are non-greasy and very tasty. However, bite carefully, or the broth will dribble down your chin instead of your throat. The bright side? You’ll be so focused on your task that the noisy communal tables, brusque wait staff, and plain décor won’t even register.

Joe’s Shanghai
9 Pell Street
New York, NY 10013
(212)233-8888 (Multiple Locations)

Pork Steamed Buns $4.95
Crab Meat with Pork Steamed Buns $6.95

Writer’s Tip: Make sure to order water. The tea that’s automatically served to patrons is strong to even many habitual drinkers. Read more of this post