Orenchi Beyond ramen and edamame. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken Jan. 2022.

Annika, 20-something, and Mark, 70-something, are out to find the Mission’s most noteworthy noodles.

Hi, Annika:

It might interest you to know I was on Mt. Tam, heading down from East Peak as the sun was setting, when I started thinking about the school board recall. It was like a dark cloud suddenly obscured the moon. For a moment, I felt lost. Then something told me “it’s a no-brainer; think of something else!” 

So I thought about ramen. In particular a name for ramen that echoed moonlit Mt. Tam: Orenchi Beyond. 

And the cloud disappeared.

I ordered the signature regular Orenchi Ramen. As I ate, I noodled over the ballot. 

So, let’s start with the noodles. At first glance, they seemed as if they might be a little fat, a little lazy, maybe distracted. But when I got them on the fork (admittedly, chopsticks have been an ongoing challenge to my hand-eye coordination), and then in my mouth, I changed my mind. Thicker, yes, but not muscular, no macho posing, but noodles that were toned, in shape, not soft and slimy, and more than competent. These were noodles prepared by a mind, and hands, that understood the mystery and art of ramen noodles far more than I can express in mere words. I would definitely vote for the noodles.

The ramen ingredients come swimming in a tonkotsu broth, which is a creamy medley of flavors created from bringing together pork fat and salt base (according to the menu). Pork is dominant, with the salt providing background music. Along with the spice, just enough to let you know it was there, the broth wove a savory tapestry.

Including butter? In the back of my mind, I thought I tasted butter. That may be the pork fat talking, or lard, I don’t know. It seemed odd and out of place, suggesting Winnemucca.

The seaweed, sesame seeds, chopped scallion and bamboo shoots provided visuals  and added to the architecture of taste. Especially the bamboo shoots. I can’t remember why now, but I wrote down “bamboo shoots”  followed by not one, but three exclamation points: “!!!”

The egg, which was plump though not particularly enticing, was very soft, very runny. The yolk gushed a blood-orange color, contrasting nicely with the broth and adding more than a hint of sexual innuendo. Potentially more interesting than the school board, but it did nothing for me. 

And finally, though my journey through the ramen was not as linear as my writing, I came upon the Chashu, a slice of roasted pork. It would be generous to say the portion was minimalist.  And an exaggeration to call it a “slice of pork.” given the amount of fat still clinging to the meat. 

My tastebuds are easily beguiled by pork fat, so it’s not hard to imagine why Orenchi Beyond is one of the more popular ramen joints in the Mission.  But as we all know, pork fat may have its short-term upsides, but it’s got long-term downsides, especially when overloaded, or over-larded. 

The same can be said about the recall.


Oh, Mark, 

Didn’t anyone ever teach you to not bring politics to the table? I’m sure you’re wistful about your days as an old Mission activist, but now is not the time. In fact, there’s nothing regarding these noodles that require protest. 

While your head may have been in the clouds, when I read the restaurant’s title, I couldn’t help but read it as “Orenchi, and beyooooond!” You know, like Buzz Lightyear’s trademark phrase. If you haven’t watched the classic cinema Toy Story before, I will be deeply disappointed. Regardless, though, I agree. This bowl of ramen was out of this world! 

Luckily, Orenchi doesn’t serve garlic noodles; I notice you always tend to pick that when given the choice. Maybe you’re not as comfortable with noodles the way I am, nor with the art of using chopsticks. It’s okay, though; you’re more familiar than me on other subjects, such as random places I’d never heard of, Winnemucca included. 

But when you’re right, Mark, you’re right. I ordered the same bowl as you. The noodles themselves were Big Boys, super thicc, with a shape and size resembling traditional garlic noodles. The noodles possessed the girth to keep one full, and I pleasantly discovered they were not over-salted.

On the contrary, my tonkotsu broth was coated in a black matter of pepper, coalescing into a beautifully spiced soup. I’m with you that the other items orbiting around — the green onion and seaweed — only enhanced the tastes and textures. I don’t know if I tasted butter, but I can promise you I’m never mad about butter presenting itself in a dish.

The ramen egg suspended itself in the soup like a smooth planet. As I probed the core, a nice yolk flowed out like an orangey-red lava. It was savory without overpowering the broth, and an overall perfection that, however, did not turn me on. I don’t think eggs, or recalls, should. But who am I to judge you, Mark? 

Bamboo shoots are not usually my favorite ingredients in a ramen bowl. Yet, Orenchi’s chefs must’ve been shooting for the stars with theirs, because they shone brilliantly in this ramen universe. I didn’t write three exclamation points like you, but I did write delicioussss with four “esses.” Soft. Tender. Flavorful. Hmm … maybe you were onto something about the seductive power of ramen, after all.  

As a pork belly fan, I was a little bummed that this ramen came with chashu instead. Then I tasted it, and ate my words. The chashu was as tender as you’d expect pork belly to be, and much softer compared to the meat of other ramen joints. I barely had to chew, a rarity. I was over the moon!

I ordered the gyoza, too, and a pot of green tea, which I shared with my father and brother. The potstickers were braised beautifully, and arrived on a cloud of red and purple cabbage. The chicken was packed in there, and burst with flavor. 

While I slurped up the soup, I looked around the restaurant for signs of life. I noticed a diverse group of people ventured to dinner that Sunday, and the servers attended to them amicably. 

My family and I were a part of that, and we floated topics that lacked more gravitas than the recall. Instead we gossiped about so-and-so, and dissected a podcast that relayed today’s dating Do’s and Don’ts. And though it would be poor taste to divulge my ballot ahead of Tuesday’s election race, I can confidently say that Orenchi won my vote — to infinity and beyond. 

NoodleMania Scorecard

Annika

Mark

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Orenchi

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Orenchi

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Mau

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Mau

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= low price

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= high price


Orenchi Beyond is at 174 Valencia St., near Duboce Avenue.

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

Mark Rabine has lived in the Mission for over 40 years. "What a long strange trip it's been." He has maintained our Covid tracker through most of the pandemic, taking some breaks with his search for the Mission's best fried-chicken sandwich and now its best noodles. When the Warriors make the playoffs, he writes up his take on the games.

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2 Comments

  1. Accidentally stumbled across Orenchi Beyond one day mid-pandemic when Zeitgeist was unexpectedly closed at lunchtime. Now a big favorite, and Zeitgeist is perfect for pre- or post-gaming their ramen. Worth noting their cute outdoor tables, which are great for watching the world go by on Valencia.

  2. Sounds like a good adventure for next time in town, especially if Zeitgeist is closed (THAT must have been a wtf moment!).

    Fun fact: Pork is mos’ def’ available in Winnemucca! 🙂

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