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quick bite

At Totto Ramen, the slurping speaks volumes

Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

Where to Totto Ramen, the first Boston branch of the New York-based ramen outfit.

What for Japanese noodle soup with a chicken-based broth, a departure from most pork-centric local ramen shops.

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The scene In a room decorated in pale wood and stainless steel, counters and two-tops are filled with ramen fans. Behind the counter, chefs in Totto T-shirts torch slices of pork, throw noodles into vats of water at carefully calibrated temperatures, and assemble brimming bowlfuls. A staffer with blue hair and a head scarf yells “Irasshai!” in welcome when a new customer arrives. Young Asian men sit side by side, slurping assiduously, not exchanging a word until the last bit of soup is gone. Women in tank tops and jeans gaze into the eyes of men in hoodies and caps. A man with a ring between his nostrils and a sweatshirt that says “BARF” slides into a stool. A chopstick-challenged woman in platform sneakers is reduced to using a fork. Two local chefs share noodles — research expedition or date? In the background, Jay Sean sings “Baby are you down, down, down, down, down?” Next up is Lloyd, instructing listeners to “lay it down, lay it down.” In the lull between songs, one can hear the hum of ramen-making machinery. Then comes the rain. “It’s pouring outside now!” a cheerful server announces. “Everyone here can just hang out with us!”

What you’re eating Totto spicy ramen, which gets its kick from hot sesame oil. It comes with scallion, bean sprouts, nori, and a choice of char siu pork or chicken. Add on toppings such as corn, avocado, and boiled egg. Ramen also comes in non-spicy and extra-spicy, as well as miso, vegetable, spicy vegetable, and mega ramen, a large bowl that highlights barbecue pork. Although soup is the focus here, you’ll find a few appetizers, such as char siu buns and tuna sashimi with avocado.

Care for a drink? Ramune, the Japanese soda sealed with a marble, comes in original and flavors such as lychee, each sweeter than the last.

Overheard Debates over noodle-cooking procedure, corporate speak, gossip, slurping. “The human element quickly gets in there and hobbles things,” one guy says to another. Then, later: “It’s a giant chess game. You might sacrifice a pawn.” “White girl irasshais like a home girl,” a diner at the bar comments of the blue-haired staffer. “Pretty much I’m tired of shenanigans,” one friend is complaining to another. “It’s cash only,” a woman says, panic in her eyes. “Why does everyone love dogs?” a patron muses. “No matter how mad you are, if one comes running up to you, you flip.” A goateed cook asks the woman in front of him, “How is the ramen? Delicious?” He gets a mute thumbs-up in reply from the diner, midslurp.

169 Brighton Ave., Allston. 617-202-5075.

Devra First can be reached at dfirst@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.
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