If you go to Ochiai for ramen, there's one place that you can't miss out on. Orikyuu, which used to be located in neighboring Oritate (hence the name), is so popular that at peak times customers can wait for over an hour.
Many people seem to reach Orikyuu by car, but it's only 15 minutes' walk from Rikuzen-Ochiai Station. If you want to avoid the crowds, the best time to come is during the week around 5pm (the start of evening service), when most people are still finishing work.
As with most small ramen places, the kitchen is visible from the dining area. The atmosphere is subdued when there are few people there, but the restaurant is fairly bright, adding to the sense of simple cleanliness. There's a TV, set to the local channel, to watch while you're there. Tissues for runny noses or accidental spills sit on tables and counters alongside jugs of water for fiery or parched throats and the usual set of condiments (seven spice, chili oil, soy sauce, mirin).
The menu is only available in Japanese, but it's summarized as follows: the most famous is the red miso ramen, which is spicy. The white miso isn't spicy at all. There's also soy-sauce based ramen, and curry ramen. Finally there's the intriguing soy milk ramen. Sides (for the hungrier diner) include miso onigiri (rice balls) and gyoza. All of the miso used is from Sendai, making it a truly local restaurant.
The red miso ramen is the most famous, and what diners generally come to try, but since it's spicy, I chose the white miso ramen with extra vegetables. After a short wait, I was presented with a large, steaming bowl that smelled delicious. The vegetables were piled on top, with a small piece of pork that just melted in my mouth. I was very happy with the amount of noodles – the whole thing was very filling. Every bite was a slightly different combination of ingredients and full of flavor.
After that delicious experience, and since I'd never tried soy milk ramen before, I went back. It looked exactly as expected, pale and slightly creamy, with the typical ramen sheen of oil shimmering across the top. The taste wasn't much what I was expecting though – it's actually salt-based, which comes across very strongly. Soy milk is generally a subtle flavor anyway, so even the oil was more noticeable. It may have contributed to the texture of the soup though, which is grainy in miso-based ramen and smooth when it's soy-based. Here the texture was different again – somewhere just off being completely smooth. It was very nice, even for someone who generally avoids salt-based ramen.
Payment is made as you leave – you may have to call to the staff, who will check your order and come to the register. It's remarkably paper-free, with no receipt either.
Orikyuu couldn't be more local, using local ingredients and serving hordes of local people. It's an unmissable stop for any ramen fan!