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Hideaway Lunch in Midtown: Yakitori Totto

September 3, 2012

Sit-down lunch options in midtown are pretty limited.  You are choosing from either stuffy but client appropriate venues or restaurants whose entire existence is to feed hungry and gullible tourists.  There are a few hidden gems though that have achieved that perfect mix of affordability, delicious food as well as great ambiance whether it’s catch-ups with coworkers or friends.  Yakitori Totto is one tucked away on the second level on a stretch of 55th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway.  I have written about one particular hot and sweaty experience there last summer with a piping hot bowl of ramen in 103 degree weather but there is so much more to Yakitori Totto’s lunch menu.

In addition to that delicious beef ramen, the restaurant has a number of amazing rice dishes that are equally satisfying.   All of them start with a mixed green salad and Totto’s light soy ginger dressing and a small bowl of miso soup.

Don’t dismiss the salad, this one stands out above all the other ginger dressings served at other Japanese restaurants.

For first timers, start with either the Yakitori Don, with 3 skewers of chicken thigh or breast, or the Karubi Don, with 3 skewers of short ribs.  My personal favorite is the Totto Don.  Similar to the others, the Totto don is a bowl of beautifully cooked white sushi rice topped with a yakitori glaze, pickles and scallions.  What I love about the Totto don is that it is served with three different skewers, one of a meatball, wings and chicken breast.  Just in case you get bored with only one type.  The dons are all served with a very lightly poached egg that makes for a lovely sauce when mixed into the hot rice.  Don’t be scared of the runny egg yolk, you won’t notice it at all once it is mixed in.  Even though the bowls might look small, they are actually quite filling and make for a complete meal.

If you happen to find yourself at Yakitori Totto more than once a week and need a change, the Kaisen Oyako don is a great choice.  Instead of skewers, you will be presented with a bowl of rice prepared sushi style of vinegar and sugar topped with ikura, shredded salmon and egg.  This is incredibly light yet satisfying if you love ikura like I do.

And in case you need a few more bites to feel full at lunch like me, you can always add on a few skewers.  Even though the choices are more limited than at dinner time, Yakitori Totto still offers a number of their always delicious skewers.  I have an eclectic taste when it comes to these so the reba (liver) and sunagimo (gizzard) are my go-tos, always perfectly grilled.  For those who are less inclined towards the off-the run skewers, there are always shishito peppers with miso, shiitake mushrooms, short ribs or bacon wrapped enoki mushrooms.

There you have it, my favorite “secret” lunch spot in Midtown.  Another bonus to an amazing meal in a wonderful setting without much of wait during lunch time?  The prices!  Most rice bowl sets come in around 10 dollars and under.  Now, what else can you ask for?  I will see you there next time for a bowl of Totto don and skewers!

Yakitori Totto | 251 West 55th Street, New York, NY 10019 |

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