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Downtown MV restaurant news: Mervyn's, Gochi

Original post made by Max Hauser, Old Mountain View, on Jul 15, 2015

1. Mervyn's restaurant has reopened at 236 Castro. This is a historic development with modern spin.

Longtime downtown watchers remember Mervyn's "Fine Foods" ("For Delightful Dining ... and Cocktails"), a popular Greek-American café from 1960s to 1990s with a little bar in the back (Mervyn's Lounge). Images of Mervyn's Castro St. restaurant frontage surface in various places, including Nick Perry's second photo-history book "Mountain View, Then & Now" (page 78). In the 1990s, the restaurant closed, replaced by Chef Liu; Mervyn's Lounge (behind) continued as an independent concession (and is now about the oldest bar in Mountain View, after 52 years -- classified in some places as a "dive bar," but genteel).

In June 2014 in a complex sequence of events, Chef Liu closed (a sign announced plans for a new restaurant opening "in July"), while the building's owners took over Mervyn's Lounge from the people who had operated it for 20 years, lightly remodeled the Lounge, and reopened it. A managing owner whom I've kept in touch with outlined plans to reopen the front restaurant under the original name Mervyn's but with a new, comfort-food menu and a new front bar (I saw the remodeled but still-closed interior at the time). A year after originally planned (further remodeling caused the delay, I'm told), the new Mervyn's Restaurant recently opened, its dining room now built around a large and sociable modern bar (even as the tiny, traditional Mervyn's Lounge continues, connected through a rear hallway, or via a side door in the adjacent alley).

This opening is fairly basic so far: the Mervyn's front sign isn't up yet, the menu is modest -- but its focus is unusual hamburgers. If I'd thought that between Bierhaus, Buffalo, Steins, Tied House, Scratch, and other downtown restaurants serving diverse hamburgers, the range of local burger options was already comprehensive, I'd have been wrong. Mervyn's new food menu emphasizes a novel type of hamburger I'm told is fashionable in Japan, with varied and unusual garnishes.

2. Gochi's closure and pending move

Gochi Fusion Japanese Tapas acquired quite a following with its intense, genuinely creative small plates, when its second location opened here in MV on Castro off ECR. In view of planned redevelopment at the site, Gochi closed in late June and has posted plans to reopen some distance west on El Camino (apparently in or near the commercial complex that houses Kinko's, Petco, etc.) This information comes by courtesy of Julie Lovins.

Comments (1)

Posted by Max Hauser
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Dining notes from two Mervyn's meals so far: This place brings something UNIQUE and REAL to downtown MV casual eating. I experienced two impressive, extremely satisfying, inexpensive lunches on this new kitchen's expert theme of free-format Japanese-styled "burgers" (reportedly a recent fashion in Japan). This is the work of a skilled female Japanese chef in charge of Mervyn's new kitchen. The restaurant uses the buzzword "J-Love" (for Japan Love Burgers) to describe the specialty.

$10 buys a "lunch special:" your choice among the fancy Japanese "burgers" I'll describe with (important angle!) "bun" of choice; fries of your choice (regular, sweet-potato, or -- not yet on printed menu -- anchovy fries, I've now tried all three); and one of two salads. Some options (such as sweet-potato fries) charge extra.

"Burgers" include: Kinpira Beggie (2nd word is borrowed Japanese xcription of English "veggie"); Fish Filet; Menchikatsu (ground beef and pork patty very lightly, delicately breaded & deep fried, with Japanese garnishes and sauce); a variant version without the crisp coating, but with added "meat sauce;" and Yakiniku, which is marinated shaved beef & onions, stir-fried, served on "bun" per below, with tasteful Japanese garnishes. "Bun" is your choice of conventional hamburger ("brioche") bun, or with a surcharge, either rice patties, or noodle ("ramen") patties. I tried the last two options, and though unusual (and sometimes a handful), they were delicious and worthwhile. You also get a small salad, either simple green&veg. salad or a Japanese "tofu" salad with garnishes and spicy sauce. After trying both, I strongly suggest the "tofu" salad, very interesting in its own right.

First lunch: Menchikatsu on ramen "buns." Ample crisp-coated meat patty, garnished with cabbage and sauce, came between two molded cakes of noodles. I was (barely) able to eat it in hand like a conventional sandwich; flavors delightful, noodles made a remarkably good foil for the savory parts. One companion enjoyed fish filet (creamy tartar sauce) in brioche bun, another got "meat-sauce" burger with noodle patties, which proved (with the extra, loose element of meat sauce) too hard to handle by hand, but amenable to knife & fork. Second lunch I tried the Yakiniku, with (on server Una's advice that it paired best) rice "buns." This arrived as not one, but two small "burgers" with again very creative and tasteful garnishes flanking the stir-fried delicate meat & onions, each between two molded cakes of rice, each such sandwich partly wrapped in paper for easy handling.
A neighbor has separately reported enjoying the veggie "burger" (braised vegetables heaped on a bun with a bit of lettuce underneath and some finely shredded nori on top).

Impressive flavors, clearly a chef that knows what she's doing. Keep in mind this restaurant just recently opened: no sign out front yet, expect a few loose ends. But I'll be back to try the rest of the menu and I'm already sold on Mervyns Restaurant and its "J-Love burgers" as a worthy addition to the downtown options.

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