Orenchi Ramen (Santa Clara, CA)
October 8, 2013
3540 Homestead Rd
Santa Clara, CA 95051
And I thought ramen was popular in LA…
Orenchi Ramen in Santa Clara has been dubbed the most popular ramen shop in America by multiple sources (along with ~2600 Yelp reviews). We had to get there over half an hour before they opened at 11:30am just to ensure a minimal wait upon their doors opening for lunch, as the restaurant is quite small (Will said that if we didn’t get there when we did, we would’ve had to wait over an hour). There were all sorts of people waiting – locals, nearby workers, and Asian tourists with cameras (probably where I fit in). But was it worth the wait, especially for someone who slurps noodles on a regular basis?
In a word: yes. By now you all know the drill with tonkotsu ramen – pork-bone-simmered for long periods of time, chewy noodles, slices of chashu, etc. Orenchi’s bowl also includes menma (fermented bamboo shoots), kikurage (wood ear mushrooms), scallions, nori, marinated soft-boiled egg, and a bit of black garlic oil and sesame seeds. First of all, the broth here is quite fascinating. It’s essentially what we would consider kotteri-style, with plenty of visible back fat particles floating on top. Yet, the base isn’t too overpowering with the heft and the saltiness – quite balanced and refined, actually.
The other components aren’t as memorable as the broth, but competent in their own rights. The noodles aren’t glorious, but they have enough chew and bounce to match the broth well. The toppings are all nice touches, and I actually liked that the black garlic oil wasn’t used liberally, as it’s beginning to get hot at ramen shops, and I feel that more than a little is somewhat of a overkill. But the chashu and egg are especially noteworthy, if for different reasons. The good news: that soft-boiled egg was cooked perfectly. Also nicely marinated. The bad news: there were maybe 2 paper-thin slices of overcooked, lean pork. We also split an order of chicken karaage – not bad.
This is definitely a bowl of ramen worth waiting for, but do go early, for the reasons I gave above, and the fact that they only serve 500 bowls a day (and apparently only 15 servings of their tsukemen). Service is efficient and friendly. The bowls are fairly-priced. Also, I read that they plan to open a second location in the Mission district of SF, and that they’re opening a robataya right next door to the current location (saw some construction while waiting). But they do need to step that chashu game up…
Long wait for decent ramen
If you come for dinner make sure you come in early. This place gets really packed for its small size. After the wait we ordered some ramen and it came at a decent pace. The noodles were tender and plentiful but the flavor was just okay. Nothing too special. We also ordered some meat dish and for its price it didn't seem worth it. I asked one of the workers there and they said that they have seasonal ramen, so I hope to try it again some time soon to give a more updated review.
Second Best Ramen in the Bay
If you can deal with the lines and waiting for a table, Orenchi is a great place. The Tsukumen and karage are both amazing, and they may have the best egg I have ever eaten. Unfortunately due to the broth flavor and meat, I will have to give Santouka the edge for best ramen in the Bay.
Very good ramen, long waits
Orenchi Ramen is some of the best in the San Jose area. The broth is very rich and flavorful. There could be more pork in a bowl...
The wait for this restaurant can be incredibly long on weekends. They will also only seat your party if your ENTIRE party is present, so keep that in mind!
Come for the food, not the service!
Orenchi Ramen is one of the several popular ramen places in the area. It is one of my most favorite ramen places as the broth is so good and all the side items they offer with the ramen is delicious. The ramen itself tastes very authentic and well done, but what sucks is that the location is always packed and the service can be very slow. The food keeps me coming back for more, but everything else about the restaurant can be really frustrating at times!
You know you're in for good ramen when you see a ton of Japanese business men and families frequenting the joint. On any given weekday at noon, Orenchi is guaranteed to have a line and not just by nearby Silicon Valley nerds (I am allowed to say this because I'm a SV nerd). Tucked away in a random ghetto mall area is this gem.
On this particular afternoon, I showed up at around 1 PM for a party of 2, and there was still a 15-minute wait. To my pleasant surprise, by the time we were seated, the restaurant was bumping house music, and at one point, Tiesto! Strange for a Japanese Restaurant, but still fun. However, to my dismay, they ran out of their amazing Karaage, (Japanese Fried Chicken). The last order went to two people sitting next to us, sad face. To compensate, we got the Potato Croquette as an appetizer.
Potato Croquette is NOT a good replacement to their Karaage - A bite into this huge croquette and I realized that it was a big let down. Too much potato, not enough fried goodness. My spirits were lifted once my Orenchi Ramen came though.
We all eat ramen for different things. Some might be looking for flavorful broth or melt-in-your-mouth chashu, but when I go to Orenchi, I know what I'm looking for. It's their perfectly boiled soft boiled egg with a runny yolk.
Orenchi Ramen with a Tonkotsu Base - $9
I absolutely love their egg and always look forward to watching the yolk ooze out. How do they do this?? I still can't even make a perfectly peeled hardboiled egg yet!
So, despite my Karaage disappointment, the consistency of their ramen will keep me coming back for more. This was just a lesson learned to never come at 1PM because it is possible that they will run out!
Best Ramen in NY
I loved this restaurant! We came here at 445p (open at 5p) and we were probably 50 people back from the front door. They do NOT take reservations so queue up early. Despite the huge line, our wait was only 5 minutes as the place is deceptively big. Service was okay but the food was amazing. We ordered:
Orenchi Ramen, located at 3540 Homestead Road, in Santa Clara, is truly a destination for ramen enthusiasts six days a week (it's closed on Mondays). Diners should plan to come early—the restaurant closes when it runs out of soup.
Reviewers rave about the ramen, which comes in several variations including tonkotsu, soy sauce and sat. Diners also like karaage (fried chicken) and french fries okonomiyaki-style. Portions are reported to be plentiful.
Reviewers recommend not visiting in large groups, saying that parties of two are ideal as parties will be separated to accommodate the close space. Seating is close together and may be family style, so be prepared for a bustling, vibrant dining experience.
Reviewers report lengthy waits at this spot and recommend you know what you'd like to order in advance lest the serving staff make you feel rushed. Be sure to find the clipboard when you arrive—there is no host for seating.