Kitto’s Ramen Made Me Cry

Dear Midtown Lunch’ers, I am so, so, so sorry. From the very bottom of my cold dead heart, I apologize and beg for your forgiveness. A week ago, I wrote about Kitto Ramen having rebranded. It seemed like a ML-friendly spot, with some specials that were within the $10 limit, and some interesting items. While the menu seemed all over the map of Asia, it DID call itself an “Asian American Eatery” so I didn’t think twice about it.

Well, the day that post went live, I grabbed a friend and we went to check it out. What we ate and why I cried, after the jump…

Despite the specials listed outside, the prices inside on the menu board vary somewhat. In fact, they’re higher by a few bucks, but then there’s a sign that states 15% off certain items. I’m terrible at math, so a quick check with my friend (who is in charge of Queens International Night Market and you should check it out if you haven’t already – they relaunch this weekend in a new space, and every food item is $5 or under, so PERFECT for y’all MLers!!! – /end mini plug) told me that the discount makes it roughly what they said the prices were outside. Fine.

Except for one thing. He ordered right before I did and stepped to one side as directed. When I ordered a Kitto set – the exact same item as him with a different ‘bao’/bun, the cashier told me my total was $14.50. I questioned this and she said it was right, so I repeated, “That’s with the discount?” and she said yes. Twice. Considering the regular price for the Kitto set is $14.50, I decided my math wasn’t quick enough and mumbled to her, “I guess it’s tax” and walked to one side.

Then I made a comment to my dear friend John about how much I’d paid, and he said “What? I paid $13 something.” He showed me his receipt so I snapped a photo (and cropped out our CC last 4 – how do boys crumple their receipts within seconds of getting them?!). Seriously — why was I charged over $1 more? The line was super long by this point so I decided against complaining and chalked it up to it only being a dollar.

But seriously. What gives? John pointed out that perhaps because he ordered the tonkotsu ramen in his Kitto set with a Kitto bao but I ordered the tonkotsu (the cashier’s recommendation) with a braised short rib bao, which clocks in at $1 more than the Kitto bao, there was $1 surcharge. Which doesn’t present an issue for me; BUT WHEN I ASKED HER ABOUT THE COST, SHE SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME THIS. Not just assured me TWICE that it was the correct price.

I’m sorry for yelling, but the entire meal left a really terrible taste in my mouth. This was only the beginning of the problems.

The Kitto set offers any regular ramen, a house salad, and your choice of bao (well, you might be charged $1 more for a short rib bao).

Another strange note? John received his salad in a bowl, while mine was in a plastic 1/2 pint container. Weird, but not offensive – it was still about the same amount of salad.

The bao themselves were on standard-sized bao-bread, as demonstrated by that handy MetroCard metric someone on this very site invented a while back. However, take a look at what’s inside. What’s that, you say? You can’t see anything? That’s probably because there is one very sad little slice of each of our respective meats inside that bao. A lone thin leaf of iceberg and I think there was mayo in there; these are underfilled buns, which is bad enough, but… when we each took a bite of our respective buns, I discovered that the ‘braised short rib’ in mine tasted quite literally like a piece of beef jerky (the good kind from Chinatown, but jerky nonetheless) coated in a sweet sauce. What the what? It was unpleasant and quite honestly, hardly edible.

John said his was no better; pork belly should be meltingly tender, delicious, fatty. He said his was jerky-like as well… which I soon found out for myself.

Because, you see, it was the same pork in my ramen. I failed to take an explicitly detailed/close-up shot of this offensive pork (I didn’t realize at the time just how bad it would be), but it was dried out pork, with that narrow strip of fat along the edge doing nothing to save its texture. I tried dipping it repeatedly in the broth in hopes that would revitalize it, but no dice. I had to sadly shove that to one side and hope the noodles would save it. I LOVE noodles!

Listen, I eat instant noodles at home sometimes. I doctor them and I make them the way I like, but I do eat them at home. And I don’t pay $14.50 for them. And I sure as hell don’t overcook them till they’re gummy, slimy even (look in the pic, you can kind of see how it looks pasty/sticky/mushy), and serve them in a spicy broth when the person’s ordered tonkotsu.

Oh, yeah: there’s tonkotsu on the menu, and spicy tonkotsu, so you’d assume that regular tonkotsu isn’t spicy, right? Especially given that tonkotsu itself is not meant to be spicy? This had a pretty heavy kick of heat to it. John actually asked for some chili oil on the side and that was also pretty spicy (so if you still want to try this place, you should ask for this and try it, the chili oil looked pretty legit). But my plain tonkotsu made me break into a sweat. No tears though.

The noodles, as mentioned, were overcooked and mushy and quite unappetizing. By this point in our lunch, I was eating for the sake of eating and filling my belly lest I turn hangry at 3:30 and yell at my coworkers. They don’t like it when I do that. In fact they’ve asked me to stop. But those noodles were just awful, clumpy, mushy, and un-tasty.

I spent $14.50 on not-delicious food. Worse, I’d invited a friend to join me and he had to eat bad, not-yummy food too (he did not enjoy it either!). But WORST, I’d written about it for ML – and the place was pretty busy when we went, which I like to attribute to an ML-bump as they call it – and basically suggested people try it out. Which they DID (more on that in a second)… so I started crying. My friend thought I was INSANE and reassured me that he didn’t blame me for him eating terrible food and that it wasn’t my fault, but I couldn’t help it. I was so upset at eating such total garbage food and paying exorbitant prices for it, and having a friend also eat the same garbage food, AND having promoted this place on Midtown Lunch… it was too much! Big, fat tears of unhappiness and self-blame just poured down my cheeks.

I am so sorry, ML readers. I let you down. I know you were hoping I cried from how spicy the food was, but it was because I let you down.

Speaking of suggesting people try it — coincidentally, while I was writing this up, I was alerted to a new comment on that first look post. From one of ML’s long-standing readers/commenters and actual occasional lunch companion of mine, Dave, it says:

Walked over with a cow-orker who wanted ramen for lunch, to go. They of course have a large dry-goods bowl and a pint of the broth, seemingly readied in advance as it took all of 20 seconds to receive my miso ramen. Large slices of fatty, delicious pork belly, loads of ramen, a little corn/bean sprout/mushroom/bitter green slivers; frankly I’d have liked more of the somewhat spicy, very peppery miso-laden broth, but it’s very good. $10.15+tax=$11.05, but it’s speedy and worth going a little outside the ML boundaries.

This is the exact opposite of my experience. We had to wait for our lunch, our pork belly was not fatty nor delicious – okay, our broth was spicy even though it wasn’t meant to be… But the question is, dear readers, whose experience was the exception? His, or ours?*

Quite honestly, given the amount of people I saw flowing through the place, I am inclined to say that I went on an off day. I would almost be inclined to give it a second chance, but too much of what happened left me with a really foul taste in my mouth. From being charged more without explanation to mushy, overcooked noodles and jerky-like meat, I don’t know that I’ll personally be heading back anytime soon to give them another look.

I welcome your sharing the experiences you’ve had at this place in comments and getting to the bottom of this, of course. If everyone says I absolutely am giving this place an unfair slam, I will return and remove this post if my experience truly was a complete anomaly.

*Of course, there’s also the totally possible explanation that Dave and I have vastly different standards for this style of food, which is entirely possible. I can tell you that one of us likes softer pasta than the other, but when it comes to meat, I think we both have reasonably similar expectations: unless actually specified to be jerky, it should not be jerky-like.

Kitto, Asian American Eatery
16 E. 48th Street (between Madison & 5th Avenues)
(212) 759-4880



  • You done good, Yvo. A great, and hilarious write-up.

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    While not as bad of an experience as yours, I just got one of the rice bowls, (Kalbi) and the meat was definitely overcooked. It wasn’t quite jerky like, but bordering uncrisp bacon texture. It was farily tasty, but nowhere near a Kortako quality. I’ve sated my curiosity. Won’t be going back. But you may be happy to know that it wasn’t packed when I went.

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    Also forgot to add that it was very oily. The bottom of the bowl was slicked with it. I’ve seen food truck platter with less oil left behind. All in all 3/10

  • I’ve been going to this place since it opened (and was first reviewed on here). It’s always been reliably good but there have been some changes. It went from being a really good deal (8 or 9 dollars) to being 11 or 12, just normal. That was a shock the first time but they still give out those cards where if you get 9 things you get the 10th free. I’ll get there someday. Also, they changed the tonkatsu from ground pork (which I really liked) to sliced pork which was never melty enough for my liking. Also, for us cheapos, they took away the free jug of water a while ago which really ticked me off. All in all though it’s still a good place for ramen where you can always get a seat and not break the bank.

  • No apologies needed. I went a few weeks ago and got the tonkotsu ramen spicy. The positive was that the bowl was packed with food. The negative was that I didn’t think the broth was overly flavorful. It’s also on the expensive side. Obao, Hinata, Toto, Menchanko, etc are more interesting.

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