Magazine article Sunset

Asian Foods in Downtown Mountain View - Nearly Two Dozen Places to Eat and Shop

Magazine article Sunset

Asian Foods in Downtown Mountain View - Nearly Two Dozen Places to Eat and Shop

Article excerpt

An array of authentic Asian cuisines--from Cantonese, Mandarin, and Mongolian to Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese--awaits diners in downtown Mountain View. Within a 4-square-block area around Castro Street, you'll find 18 Asian restaurants and one bakery; five of the eateries serve dim sum (Chinese steamed buns, dumplings, and other sweet and savory bite-size delicacies). Three nearby markets are packed ceiling-high with all kinds of Asian specialty foods and spices. This ethnic enclave on the San Francisco Peninsula is an easy detour off U.S. 101.

At first glance, Mountain View seems hardly the place where so many Asian restaurants would prosper. But the city's Asian population shot from 5.6 percent in 1970 to 10.6 percent in 1980. As people from Taiwan and Hong Kong moved (often via San Francisco) to suburban Silicon Valley, restaurants sprang up to accommodate them.

Walk down the sidewalks of recently spruced-up Castro Street and you'll see the Asian influence: three martial arts studios, two Asian furniture stores, two acupuncture clinics, and two video rental stores offering the latest Hong Kong and Taiwan kung fu thrillers.

Seafood reigns supreme on Castro Street, especially Cantonese seafood. Chefs often keep live fish and shellfish in tanks in the restaurant, then steam or fry them with garlic, scallions, and mild seasonings.

You'll find good quality at most of these restaurants, but decor is usually minimal. Intense competition, moderate prices, and a large and discriminating Asian clientele keep the chefs from Americanizing the cuisine. A lunch or dinner for two (soup, rice, and two entrees) averages about $15. Set lunches run $3 to $4.15 per person, dinners $5 to $10 per person. Most restaurants offer special prices for large groups.

To reach Castro Street from U.S. 101 (Bayshore Freeway), exit west on Moffett Boulevard and go about 1 mile, crossing Central Expressway, to Castro Street. There's free 2-hour parking in lots off Hope and Bryant streets, parallel to and one block on either side of Castro. 18 options for lunch or dinner

We group the restaurants by cuisine and mention their highlights. Most are open weekdays for both lunch and dinner, and weekends for dinner--it's best to call for hours. All telephone numbers are area code 415. The most popular places are packed at lunchtime on weekdays and on weekend nights. All the restaurants have take-out service. Cantonese

Chopsticks Seafood Restaurant, 360 Castro Street; 969-0500. Entrees run from sauteed conch with Chinese green to shredded roast duck with jellyfish. Dim sum served 11:30 to 2 on weekends.

Hong Kong Chinese Bakery, 210 Castro; 969-3153. Open 9:30 to 7:30 daily (until 8 Fridays and Saturdays). Exotic delights include Chinese bride's cake (winter melon cookie) and lotus seed paste moon cake. It also sells steamed pork buns. Just two small tables.

Kirin Chinese Restaurant, 485 Castro; 965-1059. Four tanks hold live crab, eels, fish, lobster, and soft-shell turtles, waiting to be transformed into delectable dishes.

Lotus Garden Chinese Restaurant, 210 Hope Street; 961-3500.

Mui Kiang Restaurant, 895 Villa Street; 969-8232. Elegant, recently remodeled. Most dishes are Cantonese, but it also features some saltier Hakka-style cookery. Traditional Hakka dishes include salt-baked chicken and baked, stuffed oysters. …

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