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Kuro Ramen @ Maru Ichi, Milpitas

Melanie Wong | Apr 4, 200503:01 PM

A couple weeks ago I stopped by Maru Ichi’s new branch in Milpitas for lunch. It’s located next to Fantasia in the shopping center with Ranch 99 on Barber and had been open for two months at that point. The offerings are the same as I recall from the original location. I kept glancing around the room wondering if I might spot “tanspace” there. (g)

Having learned from my last visit to Mountain View that the “special” ramen is too much for me to eat, I stuck with the basic size kuro ramen bowl this time. A side order of stewed kakuni (pork belly) was two bucks. I asked for hot tea, but when I learned there would be an extra charge, cancelled it. While I waited for my order, I enjoyed the complimentary garlicky kimchee.

I was surprised at the presentation of my ramen bowl, photo below. Unlike the careful placement and precision practiced at the original (see photo in link below), this was arranged haphazardly with a jumble of bean sprouts poking over the rim, a deformed half of an egg, and a random scatter of scallions. While this sloppiness need not affect the taste of the food, the bowls from ramen-ya who painstakingly arrange the toppings generally have better balance of flavor reflecting the kitchen’s care in determining the exact proportions of ingredients.

Unlike the kuro ramen in Mountain View, this bowl did not have the ravishing nutty, roasted garlic scent and flavor. The garlic oil was not quite burnt, but the flavor element had been cooked out. Also, the underlying broth was surprisingly light in color, a light beige rather than the caramel of the original. It tasted mostly of chicken, nice chicken stock at that, but lacked the porky roundness and succulence of the original.

What did match up was the very thin and slightly dry slice of roast pork, which has been the weak point in Mountain View. Also, the fresh noodles were firm and cooked just right. The kakuni was made with care, shaved of the rind, and braised until fall apart tender and infused with the complex seasonings of the sweet and savory marinade.

At this point, the Milpitas location hasn’t been able to reproduce the quality of the original in Mountain View. Yet, it’s not far off where the first was when it started up and with time and experience we can hope it will improve. It is still worth visiting if you’re nearby. Or if you can drive a little farther, the new offerings at Gen Ramen in Fremont are worth checking out. (


1. Ramen Halu, San Jose
2. Santa, San Mateo
3.&4. Ryowa, Mountain View and Berkeley
5. Himawari, San Mateo
6. Maru Ichi, Mountain View
7. Tanto, Sunnyvale
8. Gen Ramen, Fremont
9. BY Grill, San Francisco
10.Masa’s Sushi, Mountain View
11.Oyaji, San Francisco
12.Maru Ichi, Milpitas
13.Tomoe, San Rafael
14.Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, San Jose
15.Ringer Hut, San Jose
16.Ogi-San Ramen, Cupertino
17.Kaimuki Grill, San Mateo
18.Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), San Francisco
19.Ramen Club, Burlingame
20.Sushi Bistro, San Francisco
21.Lakuni, San Mateo
22.Iroha, San Francisco
23.Manpuku, Berkeley
24.Tanpopo, San Francisco
25.Suzu Noodle House, San Francisco
26.Oidon, San Mateo
27.Katanaya, El Cerrito
28.Sapporo-ya, San Francisco
29.Tokyo Ramen, Milpitas
30.Hotei, San Francisco
31.Bear’s Ramen House, Berkeley



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