In this city of “go, go, go,” there is nothing more special than slowing down and reconnecting with friends. Reconnecting over food creates a communal experience that heightens the senses and helps to aid in memory recall of the fun time had–or at least good consolation for a less than fruitful meeting.
On a cold Sunday last month, a dear high school friend, a good friend of hers and I took a break from our entrepreneurial worlds and converged over a hot bowl of ramen in Midtown. My friend knew of a spot that required us to get there at least a half hour before it opened sow we could be seated in the first wave. OK …
I hustled my way down Central Park West, past Columbus Circle, to Totto Ramen (366 W. 52nd St., 212-582-0052, www.tottoramen.com) with a quickness. My friend wasn’t playing about getting there early. The shipping container-sized space can seat about 20 people at one time. Normally, this is not a problem, but Totto Ramen opens late on Sundays, creating a crush of noodle fiends at the door. As a result, they hang a sign-up list outside of the door–first come, first served. The groans from slightly inebriated St. Patty’s Day revelers who just missed the window made us chuckle.
At 4 p.m., the door opens, the clipboard is taken and the cattle call begins. I don’t know what our number was, but we got the last seats at the bar near the door. I could feel hungry eyes burning into my back from the next wave standing less than five feet away from me. I paid them no mind and quickly became riveted by the narrow, watering-hole feeling of the space and the show that was happening behind the counter to the hip-hop soundtrack. From the bubbling cauldrons of umami goodness, the blowtorching of pork belly, the whipping action of the noodle prep, all the way to the seemingly invisible thin wire used to slice the seasoned, hardboiled egg for garnish–it would all converge in front of me shortly.
We started with an appetizer of tuna with soy-marinated avocado, fried garlic, shiso leaves and scallion. What could be wrong with that? Nothing. The uni (sea urchin) over rice looked interesting but only got one of our three votes; maybe next time. There were other seasonal specials too, but why put off our raison d’tre?
Bubble, torch, whip, slice … three orders of Totto spicy chicken paitan ramen ($10.75) emerged from behind the bar not a moment too soon. Gorgeous! I folded in the spicy sesame oil into the rich, milky chicken broth along with the perfectly al dente homemade noodles, scallions, nori and bean sprouts. Then I counted my pieces of pork belly (my friend correctly recommended adding additional char siu pork for $2) so I can manage my last bite situation. Stop playing; you know what I am talking about!
Totto Ramen satisfied the urge to slurp and more! Meanwhile, communally slurping delicious ramen and listening to Wu-Tang Clan while chatting with old and new friends has given me yet another experience to celebrate and remember.
Thank you, ladies! Looking forward to our food pilgrimage for dim sum in Queens this weekend!
Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter @SCHOPgirl or Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc or chat with her on Instant Messenger at AskSCHOP, Monday-Friday, 6-8 p.m. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.