the second stop on my bay area ramen journey was maru ichi ramen in mountain view. the place has a strange vibe to it, especially with the ATM machine at the back of the room. couple that with the black garlic oil "kuro ramen" and i was totally in david lynch territory for one brief evening. is it good? surprisingly, the noodles and the toppings carry the weight here, especially in the deluxe "maruichi" ramen. the buta kakuni was remarkably soft and flavorful, while the noodles are the closest you can get to unrisen, white, kyushu-style ramen noodles in the bay area (bested only by shin sen gumi in L.A.).
unfortunately, the "kuro garlic oil", the shop's gimmick and specialty, does little and ultimately overwhelms a rather thin and cursory tonkotsu soup. it's just not rich and flavorful enough!
toppings and noodles carry the day and actually earn this place a respectable score (beating Halu, amazingly). some people might argue that i should weigh the soup more heavily... but i'm sticking to my 10/10/10 scoring system for now i think, especially for all the topping junkies out there. if you were to eat at maru ichi, i'd recommend just getting the tonkotsu without the "kuro", it would be fairly adequate.
this turned out to be my 2nd favorite ramen on my six shop ramen sampling of the bay area. most people will still prefer santa, but i was really vibing on the authentic handmade kyushu noodles and the mentaiko and buta kakuni (which is also available in limited quantities at santa, for what it's worth).
further deets and pics: