Sunday, November 21, 2010

Slammin' ramen: Totto & Minca

After eating Ippudo three times in a matter of days, I had unfortunately "ramened" myself out for a solid three months.  Just the mere mention of ramen made my stomach churn despite how delicious Ippudo really is.

Japanese ramen houses are aplenty here in NYC though, and new ones keep popping up by the day.  One of the more recent additions is Totto, so Thanan and I decided to check it out after I was finally ready to ramen again:

Totto Ramen is a tiny sliver of a ramen shop with a handful of seats at the bar and a few tables in the back.  Totto is the newest addition to Ryuichi “Bobby” Munekata's restaurant empire which includes Yakitori Totto's (which I have been meaning to try for some time).

Thanan and I sat at the bar and had a great view of how all the plates were made, including how each piece of pork was hand blow-torched, my new most-desired occupation in life.

Totto Extreme Spicy Ramen - featuring nine chili peppers on the menu.  Luckily, they serve the super spicy chili oils on the side so you can self prescribe your fiery death.

Thanan and I both added an egg.  No brainer.

The ramen was a perfect texture and consistency.  The egg and char siu were spot on, but the thing we both liked best was the lighter, chicken broth featured here at Totto; it was far less salty than Ippudo's thick, pork soup base, making Totto a  great alternative for when you want ramen with a smaller chance of hypertension. With this visit, Totto immediately leapt onto Thanan and my favorite ramen spots in the city.
A couple months later, after a couple of our friends repeatedly lauded a new ramen favorite in their hearts, Thanan and I found ourselves at Minca in the East Village.  Its sign cites the spot as a ramen factory.  I don't know if I've already made it apparent, but I just about love any restaurant that calls itself a factory.  There's just something deeply satisfying about imagining food in an industrial setting (but maybe that's just me).

Minca is also another tiny ramen shop, with the kitchen taking helm in the center of the place and a scattering of tables on the side and bar stools at the front.

Thanan ordered Tsukemen, which is a dipping-style sort of ramen.  Everything is plated apart, and you dip and eat as you please in the broth of your choice (salt & roast garlic, soy sauce flavored, pork and chicken combo broth, etc.).  Thanan thought this was okay, but was pretty underwhelmed.  I let him taste some of mine, and he had immediate food envy. Tsukemen is supposed to be pretty popular, but it just wasn't our cup of tea.

I heart ramen eggs so much.

Here's my giant bowl of spicy ramen.  Comes with the full works: nori, char siu, egg, mushrooms and a healthy spoonful of corn!

The broth was not as heavy as Ippudo nor as flavorful.  While Totto was light yet hearty, Minca's just tasted...ordinary.  I don't know what I was expecting, but after our friends' professed adoration and devotion to this spot, we felt like this should have been a lot more magical than it was.  It was good...but just not great.

And while eating my first slice of char siu, I realized I might be tired of fatty pork.  Just look at the inch rim on this sucker! That's all just me, overdosing heavily on pork belly of late though.  It tasted fine, and the fat was nice and velvety.
So far, my favorite ramen spots are Totto and Ippudo, but we hear that a third, Hide-chan may be even better, TBD this winter!

366 W 52nd St
New York, NY 10019
Totto Ramen on Urbanspoon

536 East Fifth Street 
New York, NY
Minca on Urbanspoon


  1. give me ramen, or give me death!! i need all of those noodles, they look so shiny and perfect and delicious.

  2. I very much enjoyed your reviews of Totto and Minca. Seeing corn in ramen was a new sight for me. My friends and I had a rather better, and exceptional experience at Minca (ordering the "Basic," pork broth. Check out our review here: