A coworker and I went out to lunch today at the new Maru ichi ramen house on Castro Street in Mountain View, which should delight quite a few of you Hounds (especially you Melanie!)
Maru-ichi is right next to Man-Bo Duck and the Chinese supermarket. You can't miss it. This place used to be the Kim's Vietnamese restaurant, and if you have been inside before you will recognize the booth seats (still there). This is already one huge advantage to Ryowa just a few mins walk away (spacious seating for one!).
The owner of Maru-ichi is Taka-san who is/was head sushi chef of Tomi Sushi (next to Mitsuwa supermarket on Saratoga Ave)...he usually worked at the center of the bar. This is the same fella who apparently owns Sushi Tomi in Mountain View (although Takao-san is the head chef there) and the two Sushi Maru sushi boat places in Sunnyvale and San Jose J-town.
The rundown: you pick the ramen flavor soup base: tonkatsu (pork), miso, or soy sauce flavor. They have a "Maru ichi" special ramen which I recommend to everyone. It is basically the pork flavor soup, but adds a few Japanese ingredients. Half a hard boiled egg cooked in soy sauce and other flavors, the usual small slice of seaweed, something called uhmmm kikakurage (black jellyfish? it is more like a seaweed) and best of all a small but nice serving of mentaiko (spicy cod roe).
There are 3 lunch combos. All have your choice of ramen + side dishes. Combo A comes with a small side of rice and 3 pieces of steamed gyoza. Combo B comes with California roll + gyoza and Combo C comes with I believe Gyoza and your choice of small slices of what I think is sashimi (white tuna tataki, negi-toro, and one other item I don't remember).
The Maru ichi ramen was done quite well. If you are a fan of Santa ramen then you will like the Maru Ichi special. The noodles are very similar to Santa's. Good flavor pork soup and not sweet like Sapporo-Ya's in SF Jtown (eeeeeek), and also a nice big piece of char shu (better than Santa's) and a side of pork with a lot of fat, though the skinny part of the meat is not chewy or dry.
They have quite a few condiments too...included dried garlic shavings that you can dunk into your ramen soup (very tasty) and something that looks like minced garlic.
The Combo B runs $9.50 and if you upgrade the ramen to the Maru ichi special it is $1 to $1.50 extra. Good value and a lot of food. Definitely a great change of pace from Ryowa (after eating there for 4 years I think I'm quite Ryowa Ramen'd out)
Interesting how ramen is fastly picking up in popularity here (much like tapioca milk tea which was long out of fashion in Taiwan by the time it hit the States en masse). Rozan in San Mateo used to do sushi but the chef decided to play the ramen card, though I am not impressed with their offerings. At least Taka-san did quite well for his first venture into the ramen business.
I still think the best ramen in the US is 5 hours away by plane....on Oahu in Wakkiki. ;-)