New noodle shop attracts attention

Ramen counter owner traveled to Japan, studied traditional dish to make available to local community



O-Ramen owner Orin Ford displays a chochin, a lantern used in Japan to signify that a restaurant is open on Sunday at the shop.

CHLOE GRUNDMEIER, Evergreen reporter

Orin Ford brought a traditional soup from across the world to Pullman for community members and college students to enjoy with this week’s grand opening of his restaurant, O-Ramen.

“I don’t want to drive to Seattle to get a good bowl of ramen,” Ford said. “A ramen shop has the potential to help people get through winter. It’s a really comforting thing to eat. It’s the ultimate comfort food.”

Ford’s restaurant experience spans a decade across the Palouse, he said. He’s washed dishes at Sangria Grille, managed Maialina Pizzeria Napoletana and also spent time at Etsi Bravo and The Black Cypress.

“I was really falling in love with the Palouse, but I didn’t know what to do with my life,” Ford said.

A previous job then allowed Ford to start traveling. He considered opening a ramen shop but questioned his own experience since he’d only made it a few times.

“It was something I was really curious about,” Ford said.

An eight-month trip across Asia gave him his answer, he said. His first stop in Japan where he took an intensive, three-day ramen-cooking class started his O-Ramen plans. The lack of ramen on the Palouse and his love for Pullman and Moscow sparked O-Ramen.

“Everyone is fairly familiar with Top Ramen, especially in college — it was my first touch with ramen too,” Ford said. “That class was the first time I really understood what ramen was.”

Aisha Orozco, sophomore at University of Idaho, peels eggs to prepare ramen Sunday.

Ford ate ramen all across the West Coast and the world to help perfect what he wanted to bring to the Palouse. During another ramen research trip to Singapore in December, he bought traditional lanterns hung outside ramen shops in Japan. They now hang outside O-Ramen to show Pullmanites that soup is hot and ready for them, replacing the standard neon “Open” sign.

O-Ramen opened its doors Wednesday, and Ford said the community support was overwhelming. They had to close the restaurant early due to lack of supply for the huge demand. Ford had to keep O-Ramen closed on Thursday as they rebuilt their broth supply and opened again only for the dinner shift on Friday.

“I just had no idea how much quantity of soup it took to serve a couple hundred bowls of ramen a day,” Ford said. “We’re making soup 24 hours a day and still running out of the tonkotsu soup every day just because we don’t have big enough pots to cook it in.”

The broths at O-Ramen take over 12 hours to perfect, Ford said. The tonkotsu broth, a rich pork bone broth, has to be cooked overnight so it’ll be ready for customers.

The O-Ramen kitchen is full of students and community members with varying levels of kitchen experience prepping ramen ingredients. They peel eggs for soft-boiling and seasoning, chop green onions and tend to the ever-present broth.

“It’s a whole different culinary experience than I’ve worked in before,” said Aisha Orozco, University of Idaho sophomore who works in the O-Ramen kitchen. “The environment is either super laid-back or super focused in a really supportive way.”

Ford wants O-Ramen to grow as a quick, affordable lunch spot for students and community members, but right now it simply does not have the ability to keep up with the demand, he said.

After only two days of service, Ford ordered multiple larger pots to increase the size of the batches of broth and the speed with which they can reset the pots.

O-Ramen’s tentative hours are 4-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and it is located at 131 N Grand Ave.

“It’s so overwhelming to see the community support,” Ford said. “It’s only been a few days, but we didn’t tell anybody that we were opening, and we got completely overwhelmed by people. The support just is so great.”