14 Dec Maru Santa Monica
West LA can add another restaurant to its long list of Japanese restaurants that line Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica Blvd, Olympic Blvd and Sawtelle Blvd. Originally in Valencia, Maru opened in the former home of Sasabune in 2013, only to close its doors for two years. Now the doors of Maru are officially open again.
Located in the base of an office building with large windows that look out on Wilshire Blvd, there are two bars – a cocktail bar and a sushi bar, as well as a communal table and individual tables. The restaurant is spacious but the juniper wood tables add a sense of warmth to the space.
Maru is owned by Chef Jason Park, a classically French trained chef. This is what sets Maru apart from the other Japanese restaurants in the area. The menu, which is seasonally inspired and market-driven, is French-Japanese. From sushi to steak, the menu has a range that will satisfy many.
The menu is divided into categories: The First Steps, The Journey, Prime Steaks and Nigiri. The First Steps offers a selection of small plates with vegetable driven dishes. The Journey section offers meat and fish dishes that are heartier and larger portions.
Roasted Beet Salad with lolla rosa lettuce, raw goat cheese and sherry vinaigrette
Niku Kushi Yaki are two flavorful beef skewers with a wasabi root sauce
Pistachio Crusted Scallop with karashi, honey and sauteed pea shoots
With the First Steps ordered, I turned to the wine and cocktail list. The wine options at Maru are well matched to the menu, offering a selection of white varietals and roses to pair with the fish dishes and red wines for the meats. I was tempted by the lovely selection of rose wines but then my attention was turned to the cocktails.
The cocktail menu was created by bartender Matthew Biancaniello, well-known for his “Eat Your Drink” cocktails and the uniqueness and creativity of his ingredient choices. While he is not onsite at Maru, his influence is obvious.
Pomerosa (cocchi americano rosa, lime, ginger, cucumber, mint, pomegranate) – The spiciness of the ginger and the tartness of the pomegranate and lime make this the perfect refreshing starter drink that will awaken your palate.
Arugarita (dolin blanc vermouth, arugula, agave, lime) – The arugula is definitely dominant in this drink but the bitterness is cut by the sweetness of the agave and the citrus of the lime. The savoriness of this drink will keep you coming back sip after sip.
Morning Dill-Light (mochi-infused sake, pear, agave, dill, lime) – This drink has a creaminess and a density to it from the mochi-infused sake. The flavor of the pear is subtle but the texture adds to the density.
I will have to head back to try these other cocktails (at least I was able to get a visual of them).
We ordered a small order of nigiri – salmon, albacore, spicy tuna roll and yellowtail and scallion roll. Sushi orders are $3.50 to $18 per order (live diver scallops are the most expensive) but orders are only for one piece, not two. The sushi is expensive and while it is very fresh, it is too pricey in my opinion to come to Maru only for sushi. For a couple of pieces in addition to the other plates it is worth it.
The Udon with sunsei, dashi and thick wheat noodles is only available at lunch. The dashi is made in-house and it is rich and salty. This dish alone can fill you up.