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Saturday, July 12, 2014

NYC Bites: Hide Chan Ramen & Totto Ramen @ Midtown Manhattan

The Japanese culture is big in the States and ramen has a huge following in this part of town. Whilst chain stores like Ippudo are hugely popular amongst New Yorkers, I wanted to try something a little bit more independent.  During my trip I visited two places which very fitted very well into the category. That was Hide-Chan and Totto Ramen.  Coincidentally though, they were both owned by the same owner (see this article).   In terms of location, whether you live on the East side or the West side, consider yourself covered as Hide-Chan sits comfortably on the East side whilst Totto Ramen covers the West.

Hide-chan was the venue of my first ramen meal with its specialty Hakata Style Ramen!  If you have no intentions to be part of a queue, this was the place to be.  Coming in at 6pm, I was politely offered a choice at the table or at the bar counter.  Needless to say, I took a seat at the counter.  Unfortunately, the counter did not quite offer the view of men working hard to produce piping hot noodles.  Instead it was a normal bar counter. Naturally, my camera went back into the bag until the food came out =/.

It did not take long before a couple of perfectly cooked Gyoza came.  It looked great but in terms of taste, it was rather typical.  Decently marinated mince with all the essential herbs.  Nothing you cannot get elsewhere for sure. 

Then comes my main course, Hide-Chan’s Hakata Style Ramen with Black Garlic Oil.  The broth itself was good, thick and rich.  Just what a good ramen is meant to be.  But with the flavoured oil, it was heavenly.  The garlicky punch in the porky soup elevated this basic Fukuoka-styled Japanese noodle dish to a whole new level.  It made me reminisce my first meal at Menya Musashi.  Absolutely moreish.  
Slurping strands of noodles mouthful after mouthful were all part of the ever rewarding Ramen meal.  What made me a little confused though, was the noodle used.  It felt a lot thinner than what I was used too.  I later found out that the ultra thin and white noodles were common in the region of the Hakata style ramen.  Thankfully, I requested it to be prepared “ a little firm”.  This ensured that I did not end up with sloppy noodles. 

Hide-Chan Ramen closes really late at around 3-4am, so if supper is your sort of thing, definitely drop by then!
Hide-Chan Ramen on Urbanspoon

Totto Ramen was my next noodle haunt during my trip.  An establishment with queues out of the door which snakes down the street, this was definitely not the place for groups more than 4.  But if you are curious with patience to match, you are in for a treat.

I like chicken noodles but never quite the way the most people do it.  That was until I came here and tried what they call the “Chicken Paiten Ramen”.  To me, it sounded nothing more than a cross between Street Fighter and a Ramen Master creation.  In my mouth though, the soup was so potent in chicken flavour that it had me wonder how was this even possible.  The next closest thing to this was my very own mom’s special chicken essence which she makes 2 bowls from an entire chicken. 

Its condiments were a standard of blow-torched chashu, finely chopped scallions and chicken shreds.  To add my own touch, I chose to top my bowl of noodles with a soy egg and seasoned shoots.  Damn it was good. Springy noodles, fresh scallions, and man I was happy. My only discontent?  The yolk was not brilliantly orange and runny!  Big problem?  Definitely not.  Also, to big fans of melt-in-your-mouth chashu, this did not melt but had a very mellow smokiness that is equally pleasant!
Hide-Chan vs Totto Ramen verdict?  Different but equally good.  A pork broth vs a chicken base should never be a cause for an argument.  This is proven true here as both broth were equally rich, and tasty with its own bragging rights.   Looking for a sub-$20 meal in the Big Apple?  Sorted.

Totto Ramen on Urbanspoon