Friday, January 14, 2011
The Beatnuts- Watch Out Now
Cue the flutes please. Good looks Herbie.
If you live north of 42nd St. and enjoy a tasty, hearty bowl of ramen then it is time to party. The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!! We don't need no water let the motherfucker burn, Burn motherfucker! Burn! HOLD UP! WAIT A MINUTE! What's your Zodiac sign?!?! Capri... Wait, that's wrong.
Finally we have a pioneer willing to brave the rugged terrain north of 14th Street and sling the Japanese half soup/half amazing. Shit is crazy up there. Super tall buildings, men in suits, and tourists, those pesky tourists. His name is Ryuichi “Bobby” Munekata, sole controller of a mini empire of Japanese establishments in the midtown region specializing in yakitori. It was Mr. Munekata who was responsible for the chicken sashimi craze several years back. It didn't go over too well with the locals.
2 trips in and I'm about to say some crazy shit. You ready? Totto Ramen is the best ramen in New York City. There, I said it. Ippudo was being fed grapes on the throne while getting a manicure, unbeknownst to this uptown newcomer. This is said with great aplomb, having done the proper research. Ippudo, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Minca, Rai Rai Ken, Setagaya and others were visited, enduring football field lengths of noodles and gallons of broth. I'm not alone in this belief either. The resident ramen expert here at Howfresheats, Ramen Noodle Nico, fresh off a trip to Japan, warned me that Totto was next level before I even stepped foot in the sunken dining room on 52nd St. And I trsut him. Why? He's Asian, super Asian in fact. Filipino by way of Hong Kong, whose fam resides in Singapore, and his boss is Chinese.
Unlike the majority of ramen spots in NYC, Totto employs a chicken-based broth, straying from the typical pork bone tonkotsu version. This in itself creates a completely different dynamic. I was raised on chicken fat, good old schmaltz. Not the case with pork, which at times can be pungent and overbearing. Kosher ramen? Not exactly. The Totto Chicken Paitan Ramen ($9.25) broth gleams, silky yet rich, layered with flavor. Salty with strong hints of garlic that won't allow you to put down the spoon. It's really that good. Wavy, al dente noodles with a likeness to spaghetti, bathe in the broth alongside pork served 2 ways: sliced with a char from a blowtorch and shredded. Scallions sliced the long way and a sheet of nori are the final components of the dish. Delicious.
If you want a little kick (I refuse to make a karate reference) go with the Totto Spicy Ramen ($10.25). Rayu (spicy chili oil) and a spicy sesame oil are added to the original to turn up the heat. Very bearable. Has 2 chili peppers on the menu as opposed to the Extreme Spicy Ramen which brags 9 peppers. Nothing about that sounds remotely enjoyable. NOTHING. For texture, toasted garlic slivers and bean sprouts are added.
This dish still boggles my mentals. $4.50 for 3 large slices of lightly seared ahi tuna sitting atop several slivers of marinated avocado. Did I really just type $4.50? Yes I did. This is a special taped to the bar and the walls. Toasted garlic tops it for a little crunch and a pureed garlic sauce is on the side. The soy marinated avocado provides a tang that pairs so well with the fresh, clean tuna. I'm almost more tempted to go back for this than the ramen.
The spot is small. And be prepared to wait. My first time was an aberration. X-mas eve b-day dinner on the dolo and the place was empty. I know, I know. Who lets the birthday boy eat alone? There are approximately 10 stools at the bar though I prefer calling them front row seats. You get to see the ramen wizards at work. Tables are in the back- two 4 seaters and a 2 seater. The wait can be tough. Put your name on the hanging clipboard by the door and pray. The last trip was close to an hour wait. Miserable. The seasonal plastic waiting area helps keep out the cold but a chill still permeates.
Behind the ramen bar one of the chefs sears the pork with a small blowtorch. It's like a circus over there. Knife swallowing towards the back.
The magic cauldrons. Dare not look inside or else.
In all efforts to prevent being labeled partial to the West Side, Mr. Munekata opened a sister ramen establishment, Hide-Chan Ramen, way down the same street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. It resides on the second floor, replacing one of his previous restaurants. It's swine-time over there, specializing in the tonkotsu broth. It is next-up on the hit list. Review coming soon.
366 W. 52nd St. bet. 8th & 9th Aves. closer to 9th
New York, NY 10019
Mon - Fri 12pm - 12am
Sat - Sun 5pm - 11pm