The story: Seems like most of the new ramen shops opening up in San Francisco lately have been second locations of established winners instead of newcomers. And the latest example is Orenchi Beyond, the cleverly named, sophisticated city version of the extremely popular Santa Clara Orenchi. The original Santa Clara location has notorious lines (sometimes more than a two-hour wait) and it’s no different in its spiffy city location, although this inner Mission spot makes room for patient diners with a large front alcove-like space.
Why I went: I’m a big ramen fan and have driven down to Santa Clara to try Orenchi’s bowl of ramen, so I was looking forward to just catching BART across the bay for a taste of good ramen. I went on a Sunday, and since they don’t take reservations I arrived soon after the doors opened at 5 p.m. The large space made it easy for me to get a seat at the counter even though three or four parties were already ahead of me.
The vibe: While the original Orenchi has the traditional cramped Japanese ramen stand vibe, the new Orenchi is urban funk with sleek wood furnishings and tiled walls and an interesting wood-framed window wall with some colored glass. The loud music screams “we’re hip and young” for those who forget that we’re at the entrance of the Mission district (it’s toward Market Street).
The menu: There are just two ramen options (both featuring the tonkotsu or rich pork bone base) and two soba soups, but an array of toppings ranging from roasted pork to fish cake. I felt Orenchi Beyond goes a bit beyond its Santa Clara offerings, with additional rice plates and 26 items in the appetizer section. For the ramen, it has a special “Beyond Ramen” ($12) that’s only offered in the San Francisco location that includes pork belly, green onion, bamboo shoot, sesame, dried seaweed, fried garlic and mizuna. It was a large bowl (although my bowl seemed to be buried under the mizuna) with a lighter-than-expected tonkotsu broth and straight-and-simple al dente noodles. For the appetizers, I ordered two raw dishes (one intentionally, and the other not). The tako wasabi ($4.50) was the dish I ordered thinking it would be cooked octopus with a wasabi dressing but instead it was a bowl of raw, slimy octopus with a kick of wasabi. This was like eating a dish on “Survivor” or “The Amazing Race.” Despite the slimy texture, there was a sweetness to the fresh octopus with a definite sinus-clearing wasabi flavor.
The booze: There’s an interesting offering of wine, beer, sake and sochu. Also, there are four specialty cocktails with Asian-inspired ingredients like Japanese plum and oolong tea. I tried the Umeshu ginger ale ($8), which was refreshing ginger ale (from the can) with the Japanese plum liqueur.
Insider tip: The window wall has large openings at the bottom, which almost can serve as window service for some willing to eat standing up outside. This is actually a great way to get some ramen while walking your dog as I saw one couple slurp down a bowl of ramen outside by the window with their dog waiting patiently.
The last bite: The quality at Orenchi Beyond is similar to the original Orenchi, and I like the modern decor and larger space. While it may not offer the best bowl of ramen in the city, it’s a solid option whenever you want to save a trip to San Mateo or the South Bay.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Orenchi Beyond, 174 Valencia St., San Francisco. Open for lunch, Tuesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; dinner, Tuesday to Thursday, 6 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, 6 to 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 5 to 8:30 p.m. Closed Mondays. No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. www.orenchi-beyond.
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