SANTA CLARA, Calif.
One of the highly anticipated restaurant openings for 2014 is the San Francisco outpost of the popular Orenchi Ramen. But having two Orenchi’s in the Bay Area probably won’t reduce the crowds.

I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and instead of waiting for Orenchi to open in its planned Mission location, I decided to make the drive to Santa Clara last week during the holidays. I met up with some friends who live in the area, and we got there at 10:45 a.m. before the 11:30 a.m. opening and there were already a few people gathering.

What’s nice about Orenchi’s check in is that they have a sign-up sheet, which they put out way before they officially open its doors, so that helps alleviate the potential arguments about who came first in line. Still, by the time the doors open, there was a near mob scene at the entrance, and even though the efficient servers were calling names from the sign-up sheet, people still crowded into the tiny front alcove area to wait for their names to be called.

Pork Broth
Orenchi is drawing the crowds on its reputation for its tonkotsu broth, the ramen soup of slow-simmered pork bones that have been all the rave in the last two years. If a new ramen shop opens without serving tonkotsu, you can bet it won’t get much buzz.

Agedashi tofu, $5.20

Agedashi tofu, $5.20

Orenchi also has a popular tsukemen or dipping noodles ($12) – which they limit to 15 orders during service – but this is typically served when the weather is warm and Orenchi didn’t offer this when I was there last week. Instead, they had a special ramen broth that’s a combination of the popular tonkotsu broth and miso (ore no miso, $12), with only 20 servings available.

The ore no miso was definitely a rich pork broth, but the miso did give it a bit more of a salty flavor. Still, the broth was full of body and very comforting. The toppings were pretty standard with corn, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts – except for the scoop of nikomiso, a kind of minced meat with spicy miso paste.

The ramen noodles itself were good but maybe a tad overcooked for my taste. They lacked a bit of spring or chew I like in my ramen. My friends had other ramen like the shio or regular tonkotsu broths, and they all came out looking rustic with common ingredients like shredded cabbage for greens.

I commented that the appearance didn’t seem as fancy as other ramen places around the bay, and my friend Sylvia (who has lived in Japan) reminded me that ramen is really an everyday dish that’s the perfect cure for a night out of drinking. With that in mind, then Orenchi’s ramen hits the spot.

Side note: Orenchi is currently closed for the holidays and will reopen on Monday, Jan. 6.

The Last Bite
Orenchi offers up a variety of izakaya dishes like agedashi tofu or karaage (fried chicken), but everyone mostly comes for the ramen. The team at Orenchi, both in the front and back of the house, work quickly to serve up the many bowls but wait can still be between 45 minutes to 2 hours at peak times. I expect that to be the case at the new San Francisco location as well.

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps

2.5snaps

 

 

Orenchi Ramen, 3540 Homestead Road, Santa Clara, Calif. PH: 408.246.2955. Open lunch, Tue.–Sun., 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m.; dinner, Tue.–Thu., 6–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat., 5:30–9:30 p.m., and Sun., 5–8:30 p.m. No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. www.orenchi-ramen.com

Orenchi Ramen on Urbanspoon

The crowds start to gather way before the doors open at Orenchi in Santa Clara.

The crowds start to gather way before the doors open at Orenchi in Santa Clara.

Karaage (fried chicken), $7, was crispy with the panko encrusted skin

Karaage (fried chicken), $7, was crispy with the panko encrusted skin

Shio ramen ($8.80), salt broth, with toppings of pork, seaweed, and bamboo shoots

Shio ramen ($8.80), salt broth, with toppings of pork, seaweed, and bamboo shoots

Special bowl of ore no miso (tonkotsu broth with miso), $12

Special bowl of ore no miso (tonkotsu broth with miso), $12

The full room at Orenchi with the walls covered by Polaroids of loyal fans.

The full room at Orenchi with the walls covered by Polaroids of loyal fans.

Tagged with:
 

2 Responses to Review of Orenchi Ramen in Santa Clara

  1. Tara says:

    I agree with you 100%! What makes or breaks my ramen love is how the noodles are cooked. Some places they just fall apart in my mouth and I like it more on the al dente side.

    • Ben Ben says:

      I don’t know why more places don’t side on the al dente side than the overcooked noodles. I’d rather eat tough noodles than fat, soft noodles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.