Welcome to part one of this ramen showdown! In addition to Totto Ramen of Allston, competitors will include Pikaichi of Allston, Yume Wo Katare of Porter Square, Sapporo of Porter Square, and Santouka of Harvard Square. While I've checked out each these places before (most of which several times), I'll never complain about having a reason/excuse to go back. Each restaurant will be reviewed for their ambiance, food, and service (but mostly food).
So, without further ado... part one!
Totto Ramen is located at 169 Brighton Avenue in Allston, MA. It's easily accessible by public transportation (take the green line!) and otherwise has street parking and a CVS parking lot nearby.
You can get a feel for the vibe for yourself from the photo. Totto Ramen is modern, simple, and full of college students, as it's located right in the Boston University area and surrounded by similar fun restaurants and venues. Quiet mainstream pop music gives it a relaxed atmosphere, and customers can eat either at small wooden tables or at the counter. I went with one of my best friends from high school and we found it quite comfortable, if a tiny bit cramped when the table next to us pulled up a third chair.
While Yelp reviewers have many things to say about the appetizers on the Totto Ramen menu, my friend and I were there for ramen. I ordered the standard Miso Paitan with pork ($12) and he got the Mega Paitan with chicken ($16). Note also that Totto Ramen is CASH ONLY! We didn't realize this coming in, but thankfully a Bank of America is conveniently located right across the street.
This hit the spot, especially on a chilly winter evening! The noodles were served a bit undercooked and then softened to perfection by the time they were cool enough to eat — just as ramen should be served, in my opinion. The miso came in a blob (see blob at left), which surprised me, rather than being mixed into the broth. The pork was fatty, thinly sliced, flavorful, and delicious, and the broth was much less salty than that of most of the other ramen places. I liked being able to enjoy this without my mouth getting super dry or feeling myself progressively dehydrate due to ridiculous sodium intake. The toppings are also wonderfully proportioned, with the perfect amount of scallions and bean sprouts to fold into all the noodles and not run out or have too much leftover by the end. I finished the entire bowl and was very satisfied.
My friend is anti-germ, anti-cootie, and as a result anti-sharing food, so unfortunately I didn't get to try any of this, though he enjoyed it! We did notice that our noodles were different (his being slightly more yellow), which was intriguing.
Overall, Totto Ramen has ramen with a pleasant texture in a flavorful broth that is comparatively lighter than that of its competitors. It also has a relatively smaller portion size despite its pricier dishes, which gives us worse value for the amount of food we get. Does Totto Ramen make up for it in quality? I would say yes! Let's just say I'll definitely be coming back.
Everyone was super casual, which made me feel right at ease. A waitress came over immediately when we sat down to bring over water, and checked on us until we were ready to order. Our food came out within ten minutes and we were off to the races.
While all ramen places tend to have quick service and turnover, this was one of the places I've felt the least rushed to finish and give up my spot so someone else can sit down. When we arrived around 7pm, we snagged the last available table; and by the time we left closer to 8pm, there were a few groups in line. I would recommend going on the earlier side, but getting into Totto Ramen is by no means as competitive as getting seated at Sapporo or especially Yume Wo Katare! So breathe easy and feel free to take your time (but not too much time).
And that is part one of our ramen showdown! I also just want to add a quick recommendation for a fun bubble tea place we stumbled upon a few blocks away. Once Totto Ramen has warmed your bones with some yummy comfort food, check out Kung Fu Tea for your favorite bubbly drinks:
Sweet milk tea, nice bubble texture, and a pleasant ratio of one to the other. The wait was at least twenty minutes, but for a sweet dessert to go, it was worth it.
Enjoy and stay tuned!