Hour-Long Lines and Happy Bellies at Orenchi Beyond on Valencia

Orenchi ramen (tonkotsu broth with pork belly

Aside from the fact that it’s from Santa Clara and it’s famous, the first thing one ought to own about the new Orenchi Beyond is that the lines are long. Not atrociously long as at the godforsaken festival in Japantown in July, where people waited upwards of three hours in the fog for a bowl of soup, but pretty long.

[jump] I got there with ample reading material at 5ish on Tuesday in anticipation of the 6 p.m. opening, and I was third on the list. There were at least 25 names down by the time the first tables sat, which means that the entire floor had to turn over before these people putting their bums down on a seat. Whatever else that is, it’s commitment. Some of this is certainly buzz around the opening, but Orenchi has a cult following even by ramen standards, so it might continue for a while, if not indefinitely.

With that said, the hype is legit (and prices are reasonable). Japanese comfort foods abound, although the menu can be a little opaque in terms of ingredients. A dish of hamachi carpaccio accented with greens, sesame seeds and a schmear of wasabi managed to be both delicate and intense, while the texture of the deep-fried octopus balls was wonderfully varied beneath the shaved bonito flakes. As for the ramen, it’s cooked for at least 18 hours yet yields a light broth, and the egg was both whole and cool in the center, a nice contrast.

The wood-accented space is beautiful, with red glass doors, painted tabletops and a large rock gracing the entrance. And this is a serious, kitchen, the equal of Chef Yoshiyuki Maruyama’s explanatory menu note about his ramen. It’s also glassed-in (which does little to contain the shouting), and you have to walk past massive steaming vats on your way to the restroom. For some reason I didn’t want to be caught sneaking a peek at that well-oiled machine, but it was riveting and made me never want to work in a kitchen that wasn’t mine ever again. Who said the Valencia dining scene had cooled off this year?

Orenchi Beyond, 174 Valencia.


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