Castro St. in downtown Mt. View is home to three ramen noodle places: Ryowa, Maruichi and Shalala. They each have their own specialty ramen, but Shalala Chef-Owner Nobu Iwahashi has a spicy version that can be ordered by the number of peppers. A future post will focus on the noodles, but today it’s all about the izakaya (a place to stay to drink and eat).
We always get started with at least one pitcher of Asahi (and we often get a bottle of Soju or Sake as well):
The edamame beans arrive generously studded with garlic:
The gyoza here are served stuck together in groups of three:
The grilled octopus salad with a slightly sweet dressing is always a favorite:
A simple but tasty preparation of grilled kurobuta pork sausages with mustard is like eating a Japanese version of bunless hot dogs:
The Japanese restaurateurs in the South Bay are a tight-knit group where you sometimes see other employees and chefs from other restaurants, like Orenchi, eating at Shalala and vice-versa. They also share recipes and Shalala offers a couple of dishes that are similar to Tanto in Sunnyvale, such as the yaki onigiri and this excellent fried buta (pork belly) salad:
For some reason, the grilled shishito peppers topped with shredded bonito flakes are hotter here than at other places (more than the 3 out of 10 are typically spicy):
The delicate ankimo (monkfish liver) dish, topped with shredded daikon and tobiko roe, is served with a ponzu vinegar dipping sauce:
Shalala’s fried chicken karaage is some of the best in the Bay Area. A squeeze of lemon juice and the kewpie mayonnaise dip complete the crispy bite:
The chicken karaage also comes in a spicy version for the more adventurous palates:
If Chef Nobu-san is in the kitchen and it’s not too packed, you can sometimes request off-the-menu items such as this omelet filled with fried noodles:
Similar to an omurice, maybe this dish should be called “omunoodle.” The thin egg-shell envelopes the noodles fried with tasty barbeque pork chunks and onions:
To challenge our palate, the kitchen also sent out a bittermelon preparation with scrambled eggs and SPAM. Cooked properly, the melon was still bitter; but we rose to the challenge and cleaned the plate:
Chef Nobu-san named his restaurant Shalala because he thought “it sounded nice.” Make sure to come here for the ramen, but stay for the izakaya.