…plus more local eats from the Peninsula: Woodside’s Mountain House (temporarily) shutters, two notable Taiwanese boba shops are coming to town & Chez TJ reopens in Mountain View.
As we move into autumn, it continues to be eventful times for the Peninsula’s restaurant scene, as openings, closings, re-openings and all manner of pivots seem to be happening by the day. The past few weeks have seen mainstays like Maum and Mountain House close until further notice, and uber popular favorites like Udon Mugizo and Wanpo Tea Shop open up.
Take a look at the latest…
Udon Mugizo is poised to up the Peninsula’s (already robust) noodle scene
Fresh, handmade udon noodles are the name of the game at Udon Mugizo, a San Francisco restaurant that expanded this week to downtown Mountain View.
Udon Mugizo opened Tuesday for outdoor dining and takeout at 180 Castro St., the former home of hot pot restaurant Shabuway.
Carlos Herrador, executive vice president of franchise operations for the company that owns Udon Mugizo, said they wanted to bring a dedicated udon restaurant to Mountain View.
“There are a lot of restaurants in this area but no udon restaurants in the area,” he said. (A few miles away in Palo Alto, Taro San Japanese Noodle Bar specializes in udon noodles.)
Udon Mugizo serves numerous styles of udon, including tonkotsu udon with chashu and egg, nabeyaki udon, curry udon and several kinds of cold udon. Mugizo’s “signature” udon is served with cream sauces, including the one that Herrador said “people always ask for”: udon swimming in an uni-based cream sauce, uni, parmesan cheese, shiso, green onions and nori. All of the noodles are made in house, as well as soba noodles, and can be customized with toppings such as fish cakes, vegetable tempura and pork belly.
The menu also includes gyoza, takoyaki, donburi (rice bowls) and tempura.
The Mountain View restaurant is open daily from 11:30 a.m to 2 p.m. and 5:30–10 p.m. Udon Mugizo will soon add delivery, Herrador said.
Udon Mugizo is run by the owner of Marufuku Ramen in San Francisco, which is also expanding to the Peninsula soon. Marufuku is set to open in downtown Redwood City in October, Herrador said. They’re also planning to open another Udon Mugizo in the San Jose area next year.
To preserve The Mountain House’s future, owners close longtime Woodside eatery until further notice
Woodside’s longtime Mountain House Restaurant & Bar is joining a growing number of restaurants closing temporarily, their owners hoping to ride out the economic devastation of the coronavirus.
The Mountain House’s last day of business until further notice was Sunday, Aug. 30.
“With all of the changing regulations and restrictions, we feel that our business model (which has been successful for over 30 years!) does not allow us to perform as a fully functional restaurant providing our guests with a stellar, memorable experience,” owners Jerry and Lorraine Olson wrote on Facebook. “We don’t want to see the Mountain House, with all of its heritage, go by the wayside as one of the establishments lost ‘due to COVID-19.’”
They did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Mountain House has served diners among the redwood trees on Skyline Boulevard since 1988. The restaurant reopened for takeout in early June and soon started offering limited outdoor seating.
“We could not have been as successful without all of your support for the past many years (30+) and looking forward to many years ahead,” the Olsons wrote on Facebook. “Temporarily closing and stepping back will allow us to figure out the best direction for our future and The Mountain House Restaurant.”
Two popular Taiwanese boba chains headed to the 650
Two notable Taiwan-born bubble tea companies are opening local outposts this fall: Wanpo Tea Shop at Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto and Tiger Sugar in Cupertino.
Tiger Sugar’s first Bay Area location is set to open in October at 19620 Stevens Creek Blvd. #180, said General Manager David Chang.
Tiger Sugar, which started in Taichung, Taiwan in 2017, has become known for its brown sugar boba streaked with syrup (which look like tiger stripes, hence the name). It’s made with a proprietary brown sugar syrup, organic milk from Straus Family Creamery and tapioca.
“What really makes Tiger Sugar unique is not just the taste … but also the presentation, visually, the way they put (the drink) together,” Chang said. “It really catches a lot of people’s attention. That’s why you see so many social media images of the drinks everywhere.”
The brown sugar boba isn’t mixed before it’s served to preserve the visual appeal, so it’s key to shake the drink — at least 15 times, Chang said — to avoid getting a sip of mostly milk or mostly syrup. (Signs at a Southern California outpost urge customers to first “take a creative picture and upload to Facebook and Instagram” then shake the drink up and down 15 times.)
Customers can order the brown sugar drink with regular boba or smaller tapioca pearls. Tiger Sugar also serves other kinds of milk teas and seasonal toppings.
Chang claims Tiger Sugar created the brown sugar milk tea trend, which has spawned imitation brands and drinks — to the point that Tiger Sugar social media posts warn of “unauthorized and counterfeit” products using its name.
Tiger Sugar now operates more than 40 locations worldwide, with more on the way, Chang said. He said the company chose Cupertino for its Bay Area debut partly because of requests from people who live in the area but are from Taiwan originally and are familiar with the Tiger Sugar brand. They plan to open more locations throughout the Bay Area.
Tiger Sugar Cupertino has a large indoor seating area but given local public health mandates, will only open initially for pickup.
Signs for Wanpo Tea Shop, meanwhile, recently went up in the space between Taro San Japanese Noodle Bar and The Shade Store, on the Sand Hill Road side of the El Camino Real shopping center.
The master franchisee for Wanpo Northern California gave a simple reason for bringing the tea shop stateside: “Because Wanpo it [sic] is currently the most popular in Taiwan.”
Wanpo founder Peter Chang first opened in Taichung, Taiwan, a military village at the time where he was born and raised, according to the Wanpo website.
The company has since expanded to Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Australia, Indonesia and London. According to the website, a location is also planned for New York City.
The franchisee said Wanpo serves both “old-fashioned” and “innovative” bubble tea. The menu in Taiwan includes a variety of teas, from black tea and oolong to lemon winter melon.
Wanpo is slated to open in Palo Alto in October.
Not “‘farewell’ but ‘see you soon:’” Palo Alto’s Maum closes until further notice
Maum, the acclaimed fine dining Korean restaurant in downtown Palo Alto, is closing for now while the owners figure out how to create a “Maum experience more fitting to the current state of affairs.”
“Due to recent complications caused by the COVID-19 crisis we regret to inform you that Maum operations will be put on hold until further notice,” reads a newsletter the restaurant sent out on Wednesday. “However, this is not to say ‘farewell’ but ‘see you soon’ as we are cooking up alternative ways to return to our community.”
The announcement comes two weeks after the Michelin-starred University Avenue restaurant and its co-chefs, Michael and Meichih Kim, suddenly decided to “part ways.”
Charles Chen, a consultant with Maum, said at the time that the future of this kind of restaurant — which pre-pandemic earned accolades for meticulous, modern Korean tasting menus served in an intimate setting — remained uncertain. Maum closed at the start of the pandemic, briefly reopened for takeout and then tried to pivot to retail and offering kitchen space to local bakers in recent weeks.
The owners of Maum, Brian and Grace Koo, are not alone in their decision to close up shop temporarily in the face of the disruption brought on by the pandemic. The owners of Vina Enoteca in Palo Alto, Nam Vietnamese Brasserie in Redwood City, The Mountain House in Woodside and MacArthur Park in Palo Alto (which recently resumed takeout only but won’t reopen for dine-in service until 2021) have done the same.
Chez TJ reopens in Mountain View with new chef, patio and menus
Chez TJ, which has been closed since the start of shelter-in-place in March, will reopen this month in Mountain View with several major changes in place.
The longtime Michelin-starred French restaurant at 938 Villa St. has a new chef, outdoor patio and alternatives to its usual tasting menu, which pre-pandemic was served inside small dining rooms in a historic Victorian house and could last as long as three hours.
“Chez TJ wants to do everything on our end to ensure the well-being of our guests and employees, and we have heavily invested in renovating and updating our kitchen and seating to make our dining experience safe and enjoyable for everyone,” reads an email sent from the restaurant this week.
The restaurant added “improved” air filtration systems to the four intimate indoor dining rooms, new sanitation and work stations in the kitchen and a new outdoor patio and lounge, the email reads.
Diners will also be able to now choose from Chez TJ’s extended tasting menu, a shortened version or a new à la carte menu.
Chez TJ owner George Aviet has hired Christopher Lemerand to replace former executive chef Jarad Gallagher in the kitchen.
Gallagher, who led the kitchen for the last eight years, has left to pursue other projects. He’s helping to open several food and drink concepts in the ground floor of the Shashi Group hotel project at 1625 N. Shoreline Blvd. in Mountain View — a bar called Emerald Hour (opening in October), a casual Spanish restaurant called Broma (opening in 2021), a coffee shop called Carte Blanche and a fine dining restaurant called Belle Terre (opening in 2022). He’s also opening a restaurant in San Juan Bautista near where he lives.
Lemerand, a native of Michigan, attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York, after which he worked with the Besh Restaurant Group in New Orleans, according to the Chez TJ email. He left New Orleans for San Francisco, where he worked at a number of fine dining restaurants, including Atelier Crenn, SPQR, Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak at the Westin St. Francis and Coi. Lemerand then traveled for a year before a chef-friend turned him on to a job at Darioush, a winery in Napa, where he’s been sous chef since 2018, according to his LinkedIn.
Chez TJ will start serving dinner again on Sept. 15, with reservations available for Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Mountain View’s Olympus Caffe converts outdoor patio into German beer garden
Olympus Caffe & Bakery’s outdoor patio in downtown Mountain View has been transformed into a socially distanced German beer garden called Das Bierhauz.
Das Bierhauz opened at 135 Castro St. in late August, serving German beers and bratwurst. Olympus owner Mehmet Vural said the beer garden concept made sense since the cafe already had numerous beers on draft, plus a “beautiful” patio they wanted to take advantage of.
“You need to survive during this period,” he said.
Das Bierhauz has more than a dozen German beers on draft, plus bottles and some wine. Customers have the option of a half liter, sampler flight or 1-liter “das boot” glass. For food, there’s plenty of German fare — several kinds of bratwurst, a Bavarian pretzel, doner kebab sandwich and chicken schnitzel with spaetzle — plus burgers, chicken nuggets and nachos. Das Bierhauz also serves omelettes, crepes and pancakes for brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Vural said they want Das Bierhauz to be casual and family friendly. There’s free WiFi, board games and pets are allowed on the patio.
“This is not like a bar,” he said. “It’s welcoming of everybody.”
Das Bierhauz is open daily from noon to 10 p.m.
Stay up to date with other coverage from The Six Fifty by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, featuring event listings, reviews and articles showcasing the best that the Peninsula has to offer. Sign up here!