368 Castro Street
Mountain View, CA 94041
If you know anything about Bay Area Ramen, then you've probably heard of Melanie Wong, the reigning Bay Area Ramen Queen. Unfortunately, her busy schedule prevented us from meeting up this weekend, but she was still kind enough to email me with a recommendation--Maru Ichi's Kuro (Black) Ramen. So without further ado, welcome to Maru Ichi Japanese Noodle House.
Combo A - Kuro Ramen, Rice, Potstickers: You can order any of their ramen with Combo A, but I obviously went with the celebrated Kuro. According to a blurb in their menu, this "browned garlic" technique was born in Kyushu's Kumamoto Region and first made famous around 1960. Although it's not quite as powerful as Gogyo's Kogashi Miso, this dirty-looking soup really packed a punch. The black oil spill of garlic rests upon a sweet, creamy tonkotsu base so everything that goes in also comes out kuro. There's definitely no escape.
Three hours later, I'm still feeling its lethargic effects. I can only imagine what my stomach looks like after looking at the pic below. I can barely remember what all the toppings were because everything just tasted kuro. Not that I'm complaining!
The chashu was slightly disappointing. The flavor was okay but the texture was tough and far from being tender. Egg, seaweed, moyashi, negi, and kikurage made up the rest of the toppings.
The Hakata-style thin noodles were mostly a highlight, but I expected something fresher for being homemade. Yup, that's right, I said homemade. They have a special room just for making noodles. Unfortunately, there was nobody making any today and it looked more like a storage room for flour than anything else.
If I had known the potstickers were fried, I probably would've skipped the combo.
Maru Ichi also makes their own fresh kimchi, which went perfectly with my rice. It's located in a jar on the table next to the roasted garlic chips so there's no limit to how much you can take.
Tonkotsu Ramen: This Tonkotsu Ramen is basically a naked version of the Kuro. It's not as rich and full-bodied as one might think, but it still satisfies a minor pork bone craving.
Maru Ichi in its cozy, little Mountain View community does a decent job of representing Kumamoto in the States and does an outstanding job with the Kuro. It makes me wonder why more ramen-ya's don't use this method, especially in LA!