The Bay Area is a big sprawling wasteland of awesome food, that rivals Los Angeles in its expansiveness. Sadly however, up in the hyped-up food scene of San Francisco ("the city"), no one really talks about the South Bay. San Jose is a bad bad word. It's a shame, cause just a 45 minute drive south, you're in the mecca of Kayoko's Three Major Food Groups, which is, as you know, the reason she moved back to California.
Pho can interchangeably be "noodle soup", as ramen would fall into this category. As would dan dan mein. Or Sichuan-style egg noodles with sliced pork and pickled mustard greens. Or Cantonese-style egg noodles with pork/shrimp wontons and roasted duck. Ad infinitum.
Noodles + Soup FOREVER.
Throughout the years, I've tried most of the ramen spots in San Jose, as it's usually the Saturday lunch of choice in the Akabori Household (fast and cheap). Although Orenchi only just opened in 2010, it is definitely in my top three favorites in the Bay Area.
Orenchi translates to "my house" in Japanese slang. It was opened by the folks who run Sumika, which is a yakitori joint in Los Altos (also South Bay).
There is always a looooong line out front, especially on weekends.
This day, we waited about 30 minutes. Kunio was not pleased.
Orenchi's very enthusiastic poster that resembles those you would find outside food shops in Japan. Big bold colors and typeface and the requisite EXCLAMATION POINT!!!!!
A nice note from Chef Maruyama:
We started with Kirin on tap and I had an oolong hai:
Enter karaage (fried chicken):
Chicken is organic, yada yada.
Hideko got the shoyu (soy sauce) ramen:
Spinach, menma (bamboo shoots), a slice of cha-shu (roasted pork belly), naruto (fish cake) and scallions.
Look at all the grease balls in the soup! This gives the soup an all-encompassing, mouth-covering roundness that is crucial for good ramen broth.
I always get the shio (salt) ramen, as I enjoy a more refreshing broth, as opposed to the heavy tonkotsu (pork stock):
Chashu, mekabu, wakame, tororo-konbu, yuzu, scallions.
Bouncy, squiggly egg noodles, which are my ramen noodles of choice:
There is yuzu (Japanese citrus) in the soup, which adds to the clarity of the soup. I can't get enough of it.
And, the best part...
...Tororo-konbu aka slimy seaweed!
I always order a side of soy-marinated soft-boiled egg for $1.
It's usually yolky and boiled to soft-porn perfection, but this day's egg was a total failure:
And let me share with you the BEST KEPT SECRET on Orenchi's menu. Behold: the side of takana gohan:
Yup, carbs with a side of carbs, please--this is how we roll. Kunio declared this as Orenchi's "point" (ポイント, or strongest) dish. It is a heaping pile of pickled takana (mustard greens) over a steaming bowl of rice. For THREE DOLLARS AND SIXTY CENTS. Read $3.60.
And, game over.
Stay tuned as I'll be writing about another fave South Bay ramen joint. In a supermarket.