All About the Noodle


A few weeks ago, I found myself in a very cold but very beautiful New York City. Central Park was frosted over, and so was my face most of the time. This was my second trip to New York and I was determined to taste all that the city had to offer on a college student’s budget.

My sister Alex agreed to be my travel companion for the week, and together we ate everywhere, from Mario Batali’s Italian market Eataly next to the Flat Iron Building, a cozy farm-to-table restaurant in Chelsea Market, and even Danny Meyer’s burger chain, the Shake Shack. To my surprise, however, the most memorable meal I enjoyed during my stay in the city was in a cramped restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen called Totto Ramen.

While you might be imagining lackluster instant noodles at the mention of the word “ramen,” that definition couldn’t be more distant from what I experienced. The restaurant was tiny but consistently packed. Hip-hop music blared from the speakers located throughout the room, adding to the ramen-frenzied atmosphere. After waiting about twenty minutes, we were seated at the counter, and after another ten minutes, our heaping bowls of ramen materialized.

In front of me was a fragrant bowl of broth housing homemade noodles, scallions, onion, char siu pork, fried garlic and a delicate square of seaweed for a small garnish. And it was a feast! The noodles were thick and perfectly al dente, holding their own in the steaming broth. The flavors were simple but refreshing, celebrating the straightforward deliciousness of the ingredients without overcomplicating the dish. It was the type of dish I long for on a February afternoon, when the snow is lightly falling outside my window.

When I returned to Oregon, the withdrawals from Totto Ramen might’ve been more severe had Pho Viet & Café not been here to pick up the pieces. My usual order, a large bowl of ginger-chicken pho, topped with fresh basil, a squeeze of lime, sliced jalapeños, and a smidge of Sriracha, feels like a warm blanket. And on top of that, the owner of Pho Viet, Tan, adds to the warmth, creating a welcoming environment for those days where a disappointing packet of instant noodles in the microwave just won’t do. Also, the pad Thai is a go-to, ideal to pick up on the way home for a night spent with Netflix, or to enjoy in the restaurant with a pot of jasmine tea.

And while I will always cherish my ramen affair in New York City, I’m happy to come home to a place that also understands the importance and luxury that is a bowl of flavorful noodles.


Pho Viet & Café is located on 1326 NE 3rd Street, and is open daily from 9:30 am to 9 pm.