Can I Eat That: Mountain View, CA

My friends David and Zuzu moved to the Bay Area from Portland this summer. As soon as they were settled, we spent an excellent day chasing pork buns and cream puffs in San Francisco and in return they promised to show me some of their favorite new food finds in Mountain View.

I visited earlier this month, and as soon as I arrived we marched across the street to Rincon Sabroso, a tiny restaurant tucked next to a colorful pinata shop.  We were there to satisfy a pretty-much-constant need for gooey food encased in dough, so we passed up the typical taqueria fare and ordered a box of handmade pupusas. Pupusas, from El Salvador, are palm-sized disks of masa (corn flour dough) stuffed with cheese and meat or beans, cooked until crisp on a hot griddle. Ours came with a tangy red salsa and a no-nonsense ziplock bag of pickled cabbage, carrots, and loroco, an aromatic flower common in Salvadoran dishes.

Our pupusas were already oozing by the time we found a sunny spot in the park for lunch. Fresh pupusas are a textural knockout–the toasty exterior gives way to a layer of fluffy dough that soaks up the juicy pork and molten cheese filling. With a smear of salsa to cut the richness, these make an astonishingly perfect meal if you don’t mind greasy fingers. We didn’t.

Since we had no plans other than “eat and hang out,” we broke for a beach excursion so Dave could touch the Pacific ocean. Our return trip took us through pumpkin country, where to our great amusement, family-friendly pumpkin patches share real estate with several art studios that create anatomically correct metal sculptures of large creatures–dinosaurs, rhinos, horses, bulls…okay, you get it.

Having giggled ourselves hungry again, we headed into downtown Mountain View for dinner. Dave and Zuzu are great food scouts, and for my first-ever bowl of ramen, they steered me toward Maru Ichi’s sinister-looking Kuro ramen (pictured above, middle). That slick film on top of the broth is black garlic oil, and it is very much supposed to be there. The oil isn’t aggressively garlicky; rather, it had a pleasant earthiness that balanced the salty broth and clung to the noodles. Maru Ichi’s noodles are made right there in the restaurant by an elderly man who sits in the window, patiently feeding dough into a machine. With a gentle flick of his wrist, he removes the emerging noodles and nestles them into neat piles, which I can only assume go directly into the ramen. I only wish I hadn’t chosen crunchy bean sprouts as my garnish–floating in a bowl of murky ramen broth, they’re deceptive substitutes for the noodles, which disappeared awfully quickly.

Maru Ichi offers more than ramen, though that seems to be the most popular order by far. They have other noodle dishes (like Zuzu’s soba bowl with seaweed and tempura shrimp pictured above) and combo plates with rice bowls, sushi, and teriyaki.

Somehow, with just the right degree of gluttony, we found room to end the day with gelato. I left the next morning with deep gratitude for my hungry friends and, uh– a jar of homemade strawberry jam in my purse. Because, of course I did.

Thanks, Dave and Zuzu!

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