[Mountain View CA] Kumino, a restaurant that's a bit hard to categorize

#1

Doesn’t seem like Kumino has been discussed much on these boards but it is a worthy candidate to talk about. In a non-descript Mountain View strip mall that also houses Taqueria la Bamba, Kumino is a fusion restaurant that serves food from all over Asia, with techniques borrowed from the two chef’s background. One normally wouldn’t expect this kind of resume in a modest restaurant in a random suburb. The chef Haochen Liu was a CIA Hyde Park graduate and a line cook at Manresa. The story went that he created a dish while working as prep cook. The dish impressed Kinch enough that Kinch put the dish on the tasting menu and promoted him to line cook. The sous chef Bryan Leavey worked at Momofuku Noodle Bar. But all that is in the past. The only thing that matters is the food served here, which is from all over Asia and sometimes the world- ramen, dan dan mian, rice bowl, crawfish, smoked salmon, etc.

Pork noodle with pork bone soup, belly, shoulder and egg. Basically a ramen with a quality soup base, with the belly and the egg contributing to a creamy smoothness. Noodle was al dente.

(The Momofuku imitation) Pork shoulder bun- loads of shoulder meat mixed with soy paste. The bun, due to lack of kitchen space, was store bought (I think its Taiwanese brand Yimei). But the bun was pleasing with the savory filling balanced by the slightly sweet bun.

The soy sauce beef bowl, with sliced beef and teriyaki beef was not as successful. The teriyaki beef had lots of tendon- made them very challenging to chew. Tastewise its similar to typical teriyaki rice bowls elsewhere.

In another meal, wife tried the warm eggplant salad. While delicious, she said that part of it was also greasy.

Overall, promising and quality food at a very reasonable price point ($35 all in for 2 adults 2 kids excluding drinks). Will be back to sample other items on the menu. Small restaurant with 30+ seats. No reservations.

The chef at work

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[Cupertino] Kumino China- Haochen Liu's next adventure
(Karen Mezzetta) #2

Looks interesting… I just shot them a Facebook msg to ask if they can do any lower/low carb dishes. Like in their rice bowls could they do veggies instead of the rice. I’ll post when we try it. Thanks for the post!

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#3

Let’s see what they have to say but I don’t see how that would be a problem. If you look at the picture with the chef in it, to the right of the picture out of view, are all the cooked ingredients that got assembled into the bowls. So it’d just be more of the other stuff than the rice.

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(Karen Mezzetta) #4

A friend & I had lunch at Kumino today. We liked it a lot! We shared the chicken karaage, the eggplant salad & a salmon bowl with veggies in place of the rice for $1.00 extra. Very, very tasty, carefully prepared & innovative. Flavors popped! I could eat that eggplant salad any day. Yes, some pieces were a bit oily as it has been fried, but the flavors just blew me away! We were smart to get there before they opened because it was full 15 minutes afterwards. Looking forward to enjoying more of the menu soon…

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#5

I got to taste a leftover portion of the charsiu garlic noodle (dry). The sauce they stir fried the noodles with was sublime. I couldn’t quite place what herbs they used to achieve that combination of sweetness (in a good way, not in the oversweet American-Chinese way), herby aroma and light spiciness- maybe anise? The charsiu was not the typical Cantonese charsiu, but it was flavorful too. Have to taste the just-cooked version at some point to see how the whole dish is like.

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#6

Ok, we paid Kumino another visit today and we asked chef Liu the question. The short answer is that there were more twenty spices that went into the sauce of the garlic noodle, with the main ones being the five spice powder (star anise, clove, chinese cinnamon, sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds), tumeric, garlic, and butter. That would explain the orchestra of flavor from that noodle.

The chef offered to tell us the entire list of spices if we were ever interested. The other 17 or so spices added layers of complexity and aroma that just five spice powder wouldn’t be sufficient to supply. It was quite an impressive demonstration of the chef’s command of spices. This level of complex application of spices just isn’t normally found in a $12 dish, especially in a restaurant not serving food from the Indian subcontinent. (heck even a simple noodle plate sometimes costs $12 these days) The chef’s CIA training and French-Cal cooking background would explain his usage of butter in his cooking.

But since we hadn’t finished up the garlic noodle in the fridge by the time we were here today, we ordered a few more new-to-us dishes:

Crawfish bun with masago mayo, celery and carrots. A winner. The masago mayo infused the bright and sweet crawfish with a tiny bit of spiciness. The chopped up celery and carrots added herbal aroma to the crawfish mix. Texture wise the not-as-finely-chopped crawfish added a bit of springiness and structure to balance out the pulpy mayo-celery-carrot mixture.

Roasted Duck Leg rice bowl. Probably my favorite so far. Duck leg was braised then roasted. The result was very tender and juicy marinated meat inside, and the crispy skin outside was an addictive umami bomb. The tonkotsu yogurt over white rice with raisins resembled a lebanese pilaf with yogurt and was delicious. Together with the salad, this dish was a Middle East- East Asian marriage that worked very well.

Spicy beef dandan noodle. This was an interesting take of the Sichuan classic dandan mian. The beef shank slices was delicious. The noodle was flavored with a chili oil with a chili peanut beef ragu on top plus a bunch of corn and green onions. The ragu had a bit of numbing Sichuan chilis and what felt like cayenne pepper (and probably a million other spices, given what the chef did to the garlic noodle sauce) to me. My wife enjoyed this dish quite a bit.

Housemade green tea tiramisu. The kids were getting wild at that point so I recalled little about the dessert unfortunately, though my wife liked it.

Also enjoyed the Bundaberg ginger beer.

Kumino continues to impress us. When we got into the car afterwards, we discussed and shared the sentiment that Mountain View is lucky to enjoy the chefs’ talents in close proximity now, and its a matter of time that chef Liu gets a chance to cook on a grander stage. If this place is in e.g. the Mission in SF, the line would be out the door. But its not too crowded in Mountain View, at least not yet.

I will be back to explore more of the menu. If the rest of the menu is as good as what we tried so far, I’d be hard-pressed to find another restaurant in the vicinity that competes at the same level for $20-$25pp.

I should clarify now that the restaurant is a bit hard to categorize, because its an east-west fusion restaurant that is borrowing techniques and ingredients from all over the world, incorporating a fine-dining repertoire into the kitchen of a casual and economical restaurant. The restaurant’s modest and unassuming outward appearance offers little hint of the skills in this kitchen.

The chef is changing to a winter’s menu tomorrow and will be adding some dishes like the smoked chicken noodle.

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#7

Tried out the couple of items new in the winter menu:

Chicken Noodle soup with coconut milk broth, lemongrass chicken and red shrimp oil- whether someone likes this dish really depends on whether the person likes coconut milk broth in their noodle. While I liked the fragrance of the dish as a whole, I prefer noodles more savory than sweet, so I found the dish fine. This dish may also be a case of less could be more.

Chinese BBQ Rib with honey glaze. Fall off the bone tender inside while the outside was coated with the delicious honey glaze. Chef still liked to do nice plating.

Fried chicken cutlet with pumpkin curry and apple chutney rice bowl. Chicken breaded and fried well. Curry was mild and aromatic. A good example of Japanese curry rice bowl. Since Muracci’s of Los Altos closed, this would do when the craving for Japanese curry hits.

Beverage menu. Note that the sous chef Bryan Leavey worked at a brewery before so he offers pairing suggestions on the menu, and he can help in person as well. Liked the Bundaberg Ginger Beer last time.

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#8

I should write more about their pork belly and park shoulder ramen than I did. I enjoyed the bowl a bit more the second time I tried it and savored the nuances. The soup was aromatic, with pork bone contributed to both body and flavor, while the garlic oil added a tiny bit of bitterness that added to the delicious complexity of flavors of the soup. There were also a few pieces of kimchee and some red pepper flakes in the soup to provide a little kick. Pork belly was melt-in-the-mouth smooth and fatty. Shoulder was slow cooked and shredded. This time there was no nori. This bowl compared favorably with those from specialist ramen joints.

The new snack dish, fried wonton, was a highlight of the meal. I had refused for years to order fried wonton because of an insistence to stay away from inauthentic dishes. The server highly recommended the dish. Given our confidence of the kitchen we ordered it. The wontons were great. But the sauce that came on he side took the dish to a whole different level. The wonton tasted pretty Italian to me with the cream cheese and pumpkin filling. The savory cheesiness blended well with the sweetness of the pumpkin. We didn’t have a chance to ask about the sauce, but it seemed like a sort of ume / yuzu sauce that was at once tart, sweet and bright that awoke the senses and made us super glad that we ordered the dish, and only $4.5.

The spicy beef noodle soup was very enjoyable, with beef bone broth as the base, sliced beef shank, and tender chunky braised beef (and lots of it), and a little bit of heat in the soup.

Its impressive that many dishes on the menu features components that require lots of time, or lots of ingredients to make, e.g. the pork/ seafood/ beef bone broth for different noodles, the different sauces. I don’t know how they manage to do all of that with a small kitchen staff.

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[Bay Area] Dish/ meal of the year 2016- wonderful, terrible- all of them
#9

The chef was not present during a recent visit, and consistency was an issue. The fried chicken karaage with honey mustard mayo was great. The breading and spices coating the chicken was complex and delicious. Didn’t think they could pull off the five spice coating but they did. Mildly spicy with light five spice notes, it was yummy.

Other dishes were less successful. A line cook manned the fry and assembly station that the chef usually occupy. The fried wonton was an oily mess. The dip was more dilute and as a result the flavor was muted. The spicy beef noodle broth needed salt. Garlic noodle’s charsiu was good with a little heat, and a nuanced sweetness versus the more straight forward sweetness of Cantonese char siu, though the noodle seemed to be missing something versus the leftover version I tried last time. We had leftovers so I will have to see if this dish tastes better as leftover…! The wow factor just seemed to be missing.

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[Bay Area] Dish/ meal of the year 2016- wonderful, terrible- all of them
(Karen Mezzetta) #10

3 friends & I had lunch at Kumino on Friday. Pork belly bun & crawfish bun pleased, warm eggplant salad still seductively yummy but chicken karaage fell short compared with my first visit. Breading was virtually tasteless, mayo was just plain mayo from what we could taste… Spicy beef noodle soup was the best version of that dish I’ve ever tasted! Tender, juicy beef chunks & slices. Ramen noodles cooked to the perfect texture with a little tooth. We shared a green tea tiramisu which was inhaled in about a minted flat… Still love this place!

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#11

I had the chicken karaage a day after you on Saturday. Whatever that was off on Friday with the breading, it was normal again on Saturday. The mayo seemed to be somewhat plain on Saturday, though I don’t remember very well what it tasted like for me the first time but just had a vague recollection that it tasted stronger. Consistency seems to be something that needs to be worked on. Their kitchen is so small, that besides the chef and the sous chef, the dropoff in talent probably is pretty big. Given how many relatively complex dishes they have on the menu and ambitious for their price point, I can see how they can run into issues.

The pork belly bun with hoisin sauce. Nice, though I prefer the pork shoulder bun more.

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#12

Seafood noodle. Broth got depth from the slow simmered tilapia plus soy sauce. Seafood- mussels, scallops, shrimps, salmon- tasted like seafood. The highlight was, ironically, the fried perhaps rice or some sort of carb strips.

I think a seafood noodle is pretty hard to pull off in general. Prefer the pork based noodle more.

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#13

Looks like the same dish changes with the season too. This is the spring version of the garlic noodle with asparagus. I think they change the cut of meat for the bbq pork too as its drier now.

They added salmon tartare, vegan tofu rice bowl for the spring menu. I had been wondering how they will change with the season. The food tends to be heavier and is perfect for winter. I’d prefer lighter items for hot weather. Though this is no different than other restaurants with static menu like ramen joints. Though the chef has the skills to pull off a seasoning menu if he desires to.

An acquaintance from Tianjin says that a few of the dishes reflects elements of Tianjin cuisine, which makes sense given where the chef came from.

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#14

The potato salad was delicious. Thinly sliced, slightly crunchy potato, enoki and a little bit of sliced tofu skin mixed with a peanut sauce with a slight heat from the chili oil produced plenty of umami.

Their spicy beef noodle soup base, which tasted Korean, contained a hint of Chinese herbal medicine in it, in a good way. It was delicious as usual. The leftover soup from a takeout was saved for as the gourmet soup base for a future bowl of Nongshim ramen at home.

The kimchi in the beef/ pork noodle soups were a welcome addition.

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#15

The new soupless chicken noodle is a very welcomed summer addition. Came with wood ear, grilled chicken thighs, and a just-cooked egg on top of ramen. Seasoned with a very mild and nuanced garlic type sauce. The dish was delicious, and almost salad like if the ramen wasn’t there.

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#16

Went for the first time today. Had a pork belly bun and spicy beef dan dan noodles.

The bun was really good. The meat was tender and flavorful and not too fatty (I’m not averse to fat by any means, but it’s nice to have a balance). Probably could have used more cucumber and a bit more of an acidic component, as the amount of meat is very generous. Would order again for sure, though I’m curious about the other buns as well.

The noodles were excellent. As sck nicely describes above, it’s a creative take on dan dan noodles. Good flavors and similarly to sck, I found the shank slices to be particularly notable in texture and flavor. It seems that a lot of care goes into every component of this rather complicated dish. Wouldn’t hesitate to order it again but the lure of trying other dishes may be hard to overcome.

Highly recommended.

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#17

I am glad you like it.

The chef likes to experiment though, sometimes for the better, sometimes less so. Like the garlic noodle, this weekend’s rendition was a bit sweet and less garlicky to me.

I have yet to try the fried eggplant dish. Someone said that that’s the dish that got the chef promoted to line cook at Manresa…

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(Connie) #18

Love the posts and pictures! Sounds like another place to check out. Will post when I get a chance to try!

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(Brian Bulkowski) #19

This is somewhat near my office so I’ve dropped by a couple of times for lunch. Tastes are excellent, prices are good, so the seats fill fast. Not a terribly bad thing. After this post I’ll swing by a few more times, but I can only sample so many dishes since I eat alone.

I wonder if anyone has a comparison with Dohatsuen on San Antonio ( more traditional, although a little pan-californian because of Korean touches, I think ). Although I work around the corner, I was very put off by the “japanese tapas” on the sign - now I’m in love with their ramen. Specifically the broth, the noodles are a little so-so.

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#20

Kumino is temporarily closed and is moving to (looking for) a different location, according to its website.

ETA:


From Yelp

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