Tag Archives: nyc

Totto Ramen – 06.18.2011

Totto Ramen
366 West 52nd St.

The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and somewhere a cauldron of pork broth was whistling.  I awoke that morning with a feeling that it was going to be a good day.  Little did I know I would experience a life changing food moment.

Seared tuna with soy ginger bonito wasabi dressing.

Totto Ramen follows the typical NYC ramen restaurant format: few tables, bar seating, and open kitchen.  This dimly lit below street level ramenya looks unremarkable with its chalk board specials and hand written menu highlights adorning the walls.  But, if a restaurant is selling hot soup on a hot June afternoon and has a wait, I suggest you get in line.

Miso ramen.  Me so hungry.

Totto may have the best ramen in New York City.  Lofty words I know.  The miso ramen is on par with my current favorite, Minca, and depending on my mood, it may indeed be #1.  The menu describes it:

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, onion and char sui pork.

Wavy noodles are where it’s at.

Totto nailed all three  aspects of the ramen trinity:  soup, noodle, and topping.   While Minca has a knock your socks off don’t bring home to mama kind of miso broth, Totto has a respectable and multi-layered flavor that your parents would well approve of.  The ramen is so good you may think of how you can propose to it.  (Though it will never work out because of the cultural differences).  How could you resist the wavy noodles; cooked to chewy perfection and abundantly swirling the bowl with every scoop.  They hypnotize you with their undulations above and below the rich, and flavorful broth.  Finally, the toppings.  Straightforward blend of sprouts and green onion supporting the star of the show:  the roast pork.  You get 2 richly cut portions of roasted pork, feathered with slight char and containing the stratified layers of flesh, fat, and cartilage.  Pork perfection.  I can’t describe it any other way and undoubtedly the best char sui I’ve ever eaten.  Kuboya comes close in flavor but lacks in portion size.  With Totto and Minca straddling both sides of the island, always being within walking distance of a great ramen bar is one step closer to NY reality.

Char sui is Japanese for “I’ve died and gone to pork heaven”

The #1 miso ramen in NYC!  or  The #1 miso ramen in NYC?
This is what a ramen restaurant should look and feel like.  (cough) Ahem. Ippudo.
Fast friendly staff.

If I had to be critical, the hardboiled egg.  Not horrible, but I am a fan of gelled creamy yolk.

Small place so the wait gets loco after 5pm.

-bru, Chief Ramen Officer

Eatclub left with round bellies wanting to maintain the food buzz.  When you want to go on an all-out eating bender, a Saturday afternoon in the city is like no other.

Wafels & Dinges
Riverside Park

Waffle, speculoos, and ice cream = an innocent looking but powerful dessert.

Face to the water, back to the highway

Pier 1 Cafe
West 70th St. and Hudson River

Go there for the great Hudson views and plentiful patio seating.  Stay a while with friends and enjoy the great brew selection (Coney Island Lager) and mango pina coladas.  Skip the burger but try the other dishes of their surprisingly refined fare.

A light liquid lunch

26 St. Mark’s Place

Bubble milk tea and basil popcorn chicken.  Yes, those are real authentic foods from the same culture (Taiwan).

25 St. Mark’s Place

A St. Mark’s must visit for Japanese tapas/drinking bar.  Raucous with equally audacious choice of decor, they serve inexpensive Japanese drafts and some crazy menu items.  Good times are always had here.

111 Macdougal St.
(3rd and Bleeker)

Artichoke slice needs a hearty Coke

The pizza surprise in the village. $4.50 gets you a monstrous artichoke slice that will stop you in your tracks and make your pupils dilate.  Very good.

119 Macdougal St.

Freshest and tastiest.  Fuggediboutit.

Best falafel in the city.  That evening, it was also the HOTTEST.


Zen Restaurant – 03.03.2011

Zen Restaurant
31 St. Marks Place
New York, NY

Zen is located in the heart of St. Marks amongst the multitude of asian eateries; and much like the people, all the storefronts look the same:  yellow and foreign.  Step into Zen and you will be transported to a no frills NYC-style Japanese joint.  A dime a dozen or a yen a dozen rather.

A pitcher of Kirin draft will set you back $12, not too shabby.

Zen’s signature Tonkotsu Ramen ($8.50).

Another noodle waterfall.

Ramen is the reason Eatclub meets and ramen is what we ordered.  The waitress recommended the Tonkotsu ramen:  original garlic salt flavored noodle soup with meat, mushroom, egg, and baby bamboo (shinachiku).  Eatclub has eaten enough ramen to be critical and to be brief, this ramen was slightly above average.  The noodles were wavy and chewy, the best thing going for this dish.  The meat (charsui) was average, the egg was overcooked with a greenish tinge, and sadly the broth let me down.  Perhaps it was the garlic salt base but a ramen called “tonkotsu” has to deliver in-your-face porkiness.  Instead the soup was thin and bland, especially when compared to more complex blends such as the broths at Ippudo and Kuboya.  However, if I ever had a hankering for ramen in the East Village, I would consider going back to Zen, especially with good company and a thirst for Japanese brew.

Noodles and beer. In that order.

Signature ramen’s soup was just meh.

The storefront, it looks like a bad 3-D Japanese/English ransom note.

– ramen boy

An extra seat is available single ladies.

Chom Chom – 12.13.2010

Chom Chom
40W 56th street
New York, NY 10019

XteethX quips Eat club did well today: hit chom chom, dos toros,think coffee, boka, pink berry, mamoun falafel, central bar and now max brenner.

Disappointing Chom Chom sampler plate.

Who says eatclub isn’t diverse enough.  Ju-goh-leh?

Kuboya – 11.18.2010

536 E 5th St #2
New York, NY 10009

Not your typical ramenya storefront

Kuboya serves a great bowl of ramen but it is far from a traditional ramen restaurant.  The ramen is as much a product of NYC as the owner and head chef, Hiroshi Kubo.   Just imagine:  Drummer in a Japanese band with a passion for ramen, marries an American woman with 2 kids, takes a corporate job at Japanese mega-firm only to come running back to his true love, cooking.  With the birth of his son, Hiro finishes ramen classes to open a store in a former French restaurant next to an already popular ramen joint (Minca).  Only in New York.

Yaki gyoza (fried dumplings)

Kubo-Chan Miso Ramen

Closeup of broth, scallions, and charsui

A noodle waterfall

I love dumplings but I don’t know much about how Japanese dumplings should taste.  The fried dumplings here were definitely not from a package and although good, ramen joints never give enough;  they should really be served in multiples of 12.  But alas, ramen is why we came here and the miso ramen is what I ordered.

The soup arrived steaming and perfectly hot, just below scalding your mouth.  The pork based broth was good…very good.  After each sip, the soup in your mouth lingers for more than a few seconds as the aromas circulate through your olfactory senses.  You have to savor the richness of this soup like you would a fine wine or a craft beer.  This is what ramen-heads live for, try doing this with your cup ramen.  The noodles were cooked al dente (or perhaps slightly more toothy).  Springy and wavy with the pale yellow hue, I can just stare at the picture above all day.  As I attacked the bowl of ramen, I eventually took a bite of the roast pork (charsui) and knew Hiro meant business.  The fatty pork slice was cooked perfectly, juicy and dense with pockets of melting fat and cartilage.  My only critique, thicker slices and more of them please.

Kubo-Chan Miso ramen is deep complex and satisfying, especially on a cold city night.
Easily one of top ramen joints in the city, I WILL come back.
Helpful albeit fobby waitress.  At leasts shes legit Japanese.

It’s in AB city.  A hike for most.

Trying to decide between Kuboya or its neighbor Minca without going to both.

Strange ramen eating music

Re-visited Sapporo in midtown and it pales in comparison to Kuboya.  Sapporo churns out ramen with factory like timing and blandness.  Kuboya has expertly crafted ramen with attention to quality and detail.  It is like drinking a Budweiser and then sampling a Dogfishhead 90 Minute IPA.  Once you try, you will know.

Hillcountry – 03.04.10

Hill Country BBQ
30 West 26th St.

Has the search for authentic BBQ left you restless as a hen on a hot griddle?  Then mosey on over to Hillcountry BBQ conveniently located near New York’s Flatiron district.  Hillcountry has authentic Texas style bbq from the Hill Country of Texas, which I know nothing about.  However, for an escape from the concrete jungle of the NYC, Hillcountry delivers with a homestyle country experience.

Even though it’s supposed to be a laid-back Texas style mess hall, the admission was surprisingly strict, velvet rope and all.  This is because the food service is buffet style with a card for every patron that is marked every time you pick up food.  Imagine a Texan Dim Sum, if that makes sense.  Instead of chicken feet and shrimp shumai, you have monstrous cuts of beef and pork.  There are two lines and during dinner and the main chow line gets long.  Every order is hand prepared with nothing pre-cut ahead of time.  It’s also a good sign when prices are listed by the pound.

The Pit Master Combo

Hearty Sides

The pit master combo: a pork rib, beef rib, lean brisket, and quarter bbq chicken with 2 sides may not look like a lot in the picture but it is very filling.  The beef rib is very juicy (fatty) with little sauce to let the beef taste come through.  It’s cooked well but I prefer the pork rib.  It has the right balance of meat and fat and the flavor is porky but not overpowering.  These ribs are Texas style so it is well smoked with all meat flavor; unlike sweeter Tennessee style ‘que.  The lean brisket was okay but don’t let it get cold as it will taste drier.  The moist brisket is indeed juicier and is worth the extra cost.  Finally, the bbq chicken is surprisingly juicy and nicely slathered with a baked on bbq sauce.  Make sure to opt for the dark meat.  The bourbon sweet potato mash, mac & cheese, and corn pudding sticks to your ribs.  They are very filling and has that home made taste.  Don’t mess with Texas and don’t mess with these rich sides.

Some notable observations:  ceiling high stack of hardwood in the corner, giant car sized smoker doors, hand-washing station with foot pedal IN the dining room, large downstairs with additional bar and stage.

The moist brisket, bbq chicken, and any of the sides
There are food & drink specials almost every night

I doubt anything is vegetarian friendly, not even the sides. (some would consider this a Good)

After a few PBRs and the pit master combo, you won’t be ready to lasso a calf, let alone move.