Orenchi Ramen – Santa Clara

Rated: ♣♣♣♣♣

I’ve been on a ramen hiatus for a while, but my love for the soupy noodle dish was resuscitated after dining at the famed Orenchi Ramen. I’ve devoured a lot of ramen around the Bay Area (like here, here, here, here, and here), and I must say that Orenchi is pretty high on the list.

Between 4 people, we shared 2 appetizers: the pork belly and fried garlic. The braised pork belly was soooo sinful. Slowly cooked and perfectly tender. My advice: do not cut off the fat. The fat in the pork belly gives it a distinct flavor. It’s more robust, and somewhat nutty. Believe it or not, the fried garlic was BETTER than the pork belly. Orenchi takes the entire bulb and deep fries it in hot oil until the cloves become soft and creamy. They serve the bulb with a side of dipping sauce (almost like a thousand island). When garlic is fried, it looses its spicy garlicky taste. The flavor becomes much more subtle. You don’t even realize how garlicky it really is until you smell yourself the next morning. Gross… but completely worth it! :)

Orenchi Pork Belly

Orenchi Fried Garlic

I ordered Orenchi Ramen with a tonkotsu soup base. Drumroll please! Dudududuudud… it’s delicious! I ordered with less fat and less salt for peace of mind, but the broth was still very thick and rich. They pour in some special black oil to top off the dish. Not sure what it is, maybe toasted sesame oil? The toppings in the ramen are definitely far superior compared to other ramen places. There was a slice of that delicious pork belly again. The best part is the soft boiled egg. Orenchi has perfected the soft boiled egg. All of ours were perfectly runny and gooey in the middle. The thick and creamy yolk was liquid gold. If only I had a bigger stomach to eat more!

Orenchi Tonkotsu Ramen

If I were to rate the ramen restaurants in the Bay Area, it would look something like this:

1. Orenchi (tonkotsu broth) at Orenchi Ramen, Santa Clara
2. Miso Ramen at Ramen Halu, San Jose
3. Karage Ramen at Katana-ya, San Francisco
4. Karage Ramen at Santa Ramen, San Mateo
5. Deluxe Miso Ramen at Himawari, San Mateo
6. Karage Ramen at Halu Ramen, San Francisco
7. Tofu and Vegetable Curry at Muracci’s Japanese Curry and Grill, San Francisco

But, my all time favorite ramen would be the Koterri Ramen (chicken collagen soup base) at Tenkaippin in Honolulu, HI. It’s the most unique ramen experience I’ve ever had (sticks to your ribs kind of ramen) and I can’t wait to go back to Hawaii to eat more.

Orenchi Ramen
3540 Homestead Rd
Santa Clara, CA 95051

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Katana-ya – San Francisco

Katana-Ya Fried Chicken RamenKatana-ya
430 Geary St
(at Mason St)
San Francisco, CA 94102

Rated: ♣♣♣♣

Finally, a great noodle place in downtown! If you ever struggle, like I always do, to find a place to eat while shopping in Union Square. This is the place to go.

The scene:

I’ve heard about the wait. I’ve seen the wait. That’s why I’ve held off eating here for so long. K and I ended up waiting for about 10 minutes. The restaurant is small. It can’t possibly sit any more than 25 people.

The wait staff is friendly and service is quick. This is a great option for a bite before a show at the Curran Theater just across the street. Just make sure you come early to put your name on the wait list.

The food:

They have 3 options for broth – miso, soy and salt. I’ve always been a fan of rich and creamy miso broth and I’m a fan of fried chicken so, K and I both ordered the fried chicken ramen in miso broth. I asked for the “light” miso which I am sure is not very light.

Fried Chicken Ramen w/ Miso broth – The broth was thick, rich and not too salty. The toppings added are seaweed, pickled bamboo shoots and green onions. There is a TON of fresh ramen noodles in each serving. Usually, I could eat a whole bowl, but not this one. I had to give my leftovers to an eager K across the table. The fried chicken was super moist and fatty. Nothing low-fat about this dish at all.

Spicy Roll – While eating our ramen, an ad for their spicy roll was staring at us over our table. We had to try it. The Spicy Roll is made of fresh tuna and an insanely spicy chili paste. This was actually pretty painful to eat as it lived up to its name. Never again.

I’d love to come back to Katana-ya and try a different kind of ramen. The butter corn caught my attention last time. Yum!

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Hamura's Saimin – Lihue, HI

Hamuras SaiminHamura’s Saimin Stand
2956 Kress St
Lihue, HI 96766

Rated: ♣♣♣♣♣

If I had to choose my last meal on earth, it would be a large shrimp special at Hamura’s saimin. Hamura’s Saimin is the reason why I go back to Kauai every other year.

What is saimin you might ask? Saimin is a soft wheat egg noodle much like ramen, but only 100 times better. It’s usually served in a light broth with fish cake, wontons, napa cabbage, spam and an egg.

The scene:

Hamura’s is a hole in the wall in a little alley on the island of Kauai. The restaurant is filled with a bunch of u-shaped counters with stools lined up on either side. Of the 10 years I’ve been coming to Hamura’s, I think the only cosmetic change at the restaurant was a new sign. You don’t take your time at Hamura’s. You sit, you eat, you go. They have lunch and dinner rushes, so get here early or you will be waiting.

The food:

Any of the saimins are outstanding. The broth is light, the noodles have a bite and the spam has the right hint of saltiness. I’d stay away from the wontons, if you’ve had a real wonton before. These weren’t that great. For dessert, get the Lilikoi (passion fruit) Chiffon Pie. That is my favorite pie ever! It’s nice and tart, and I’m a huge fan of anything with a meringue.

It’ll be another 2 years before I go back to Hamura’s. Le sigh….

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