Of all the places in the Bay Area the one that resonates most amongst ramen fans is Orenchi in Santa Clara. Tales of 3-4 hour waits, running out of broth, and giant noodle shaped yetis swirl around this small eatery in a very unassuming strip mall. Long hailing as the “king of tonkotsu” this place has enough hype to choke a humpback whale. I knew I had to try it.
We had been down in Santa Cruz all day and on the way home (after sitting in traffic for almost 3 hours) desperately needed something to eat. I noticed that we were very close to where Orenchi is located and at a time when the line should be at a minimum. Pulling into the parking lot I knew immediately that last bit was not true. Thankfully we found a parking spot right in front of the door making it much easier to wait. Estimated wait: 90 minutes. At 6:30pm on a Sunday night.
The smell coming from inside was glorious. We at down and I ordered the famed “Orenchi Ramen”. I decided to leave it exactly as is so I could see what the hype was like without any alterations or interference from extra ingredients. The only extra item I got was a second egg since I had heard they were so good.
My bowl appeared shortly after and it was beautiful. The broth was thick and creamy, speckled with black garlic oil, and loaded with small vessels of delicious fat. It had a very complex yet clean taste with layers of flavor that really complemented each other. It was easily one of the best tonkotsu broths I have had. The noodles and toppings were all very well done with the chasu being a supreme specimen. The eggs were stellar as described by everyone I spoke too prior to us arriving. It was without a doubt a fantastic bowl of ramen, especially for $9.50, except for one giant problem.
I cannot justify a 90+ minute wait for this ramen. It was great, really, however for how long I had to wait for it I was expecting the second coming of Tanpopo or something here. It just really was not worthy of a wait that long. The biggest problem is the food is so good and the place is so small that they can’t keep up with the demand. This would be a 5 out of 5 for me if it wasn’t for that wait.
I highly recommend trying it out, however if you can get there on off hours do it.