When people think ramen, the first thing that comes to mind is probably an instant bag of noodles that cost pennies. For Asians, it is comparable to Kraft macaroni and cheese as a college staple.
I became introduced to restaurants that exclusively served bowls of ramen noodles living in Los Angeles in the mid 1990s. Being 500 miles from home, a bowl of ramen gave me a sense of comfort. These bowls were much more sophisticated than throwing a bag of dried noodles into a pot of boiling water.
I’ve had a few good bowls of ramen in the Bay Area. If I were on the show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” I would be confident to announce ramen at Orenchi Ramen in Santa Clara. I’ve never had better.
The two key factors in a good bowl of ramen are the noodles and the soup broth. The noodles used at Orenchi are thick noodles that are springy and neither too soft nor too hard. The broth is made with pork, chicken, seafood, and vegetables and cooked for a minimum of 18 hours.
The menu at Orenchi is fairly simple. You have a choice of three types of ramen which are shoyu (soy base), shio (salt base), and Orenchi (tonkotsu or pork bone base). I cannot get enough of the Orenchi Ramen which comes with pork, green onion, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, sesame, nori seaweed, and a soft boiled seasoned egg. It is pure delight.
There are also a number of appetizers at Orenchi, but there really is only one reason to go there. The ramen at Orenchi is indeed the perfect harmony of soup and noodles. If only it was closer to me!
Sumika in Los Altos is their sister restaurant that serves grilled meats and things. This year it was included in the Michelin guide and I hope to try it someday soon.