Years ago when the SF bay area ramen scene belonged to only the few – Tampopo and Katana-Ya up north in San Francisco, Santa and Ryowa ruled the ends of the Penninsula in San Mateo and Mountain View, and Tokushima Do-Henkotsu and Ringer Hut held their grounds in the south bay. The east bay was void of any ramen shop, let along a good one.
Then around early 2004, the ramen-fever caught on here and many new places opened all over the bay area. One of the first of this wave was Gen Ramen in Fremont that I wrote about in 2004. Of these, some have been more successful than the others. On one hand we have Ramen Halu in San Jose/Santa Clara border which some (including this author) has considered to be the new King of ramen in the SF bay area, usurping Santa Ramen. Then on the other hand we have the many get-rich-quick-by-selling-the-latest-fad-food Ramen places which were terrible imitations of a true ramen-ya, selling ramen that is worse than store bought pre-packaged variety, that luckily closed down as quickly as they’ve opened. We won’t mention those names. (Though some can be seen from my Top 10 Ramen in Bay Area list)
Another player which has done well is the Maru Ichi chain of two ramen houses in Mountain View and Milpitas. Owned by the folks behind Suhi Tomi and Sushi Maru, they’ve been quite successful with their unique version of ramen – combining a special black sesame based Kuro ramen broth base with homemade noodles.
The Kuro ramen at Maru Ichi is different from the more traditional ramen found at places like Halu and Santa. The broth is chicken and pork based. On top of it, a black sesame based oil is added to give an extra dimension of flavor.
The regular tonkotsu ramen without the kuro is also decent and has a more simple broth that is good but also not very oily or salty.
The noodles are homemade and though not as “el dente” as the Halu noodles, is nonetheless chewy enough to hold up through most of the meal. The shape is also striaght as in more “chuka” (中華) style instead of wavy. It works well with the kuro broth.
The only complaint is that the noodles are very minimal in the regular order. I always get the extra noodles which, interestingly enough, comes in a separate bowl, unless most of the other ramen places. I believe they do this on purpose so that the extra noodles are mixed in later, in order to preserve the el-denteness of it.
Maru Ichi has definitely carved its own niche in the bay area ramen scene. It is a welcomed variety in the sea of ramen shops now dotting the SF ramen landscape.
Maru Ichi Ramen (丸一拉麵)530 Barber Lane
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 434-5991368 Castro St
Mountain View, CA 94043