October 2, 2013

First Impression: Maru

I said it once and I'll say it again, Hamilton went from one Korean joint to what feels like a dozen - over night! But I'm not complaining, I have no problem taking one for the team and trying each and every one of them. On this occasion, we checked out Maru on the corner of Cannon and James Street North. 

They advertise themselves as a Fusion Korean Restaurant but judging from the menu, I couldn't really figure out what else they've chosen to fuse themselves with. Please correct me if I'm wrong. They're signature dish is the maru ball. Of course I ordered one ... more on that later. 
Some of my staple dishes to order at any Korean restaurant is the Bibimbap ($10.99) and the Pork Bone Soup ($7.99). The pork bone soup was good but nowhere near excellent. It lacked depth but on the plus side, it wasn't as concentrated as the one at Alirang. Maybe I'm just being picky but I've had better broths. They were really generous with the meat though, and it was super tender and just fell off the bone - with out being over cooked. 
For those new to Bibimbap - it's pretty much a deconstructed "fried" rice. You get all the components on top of a bowl of rice and a bottle of "spicy" sauce to mix in with the rice (if you choose to). You're meant to break up the egg and mix it all up so you're left with a one bowl wonder (pictured below). I would highly recommend getting it with the stone bowl - and when I say "highly",  I mean don't bother ordering it if you're NOT getting the stone bowl. 

The stone bowl creates the best part about Bibimbap. The hot stone continues to cook the rice while you eat so you end up with little morsels of sticky crispy nuggets of rice around the edges and at the bottom of the bowl. Those are the best parts! It also helps to cook the egg if you're a little squeamish about a runny yolk.  We paid extra for the stone bowl, which I've never seen before but c'est la vie, we all gotta make a living. This would be a great dish for vegetarians or even vegans too, sans meat of course. 

On this occasion the stone bowl wasn't nearly hot enough so we didn't get any crispy bits of heaven - not cool. 
To spice things up a bit, we ordered some things I'd never heard of before,  like these Korean fried seaweed wrapped with potato noodle ($6.99). These were a little unusual. I've had all the ingredients separately, the seaweed, the potato noodles but together they were....interestingly addictive.  At first, we didn't like them but after the second, and third one (yes I kept eating them after I decided I didn't like them #fatgirlproblems) they started growing on us. The crunch on the outside helped balance the soft textures of the pork bone soup and the bibimbap. The chewiness of the noodles became more and more enjoyable to eat. Then before you know it, the plate was cleared. We concluded these would make an awesome bar snack with a cold beer. 

Last but definitely not least - the infamous maru ball! They had a few maru ball options but we went with the tuna option ($4.99). They're basically baseball sized balls of rice with a filling on the inside and then rolled around in your favourite sushi roll toppings i.e., bonito flakes, japanese mayo, teriyaki sauce etc. 

This was really disappointing, but I am definitely the wrong person to be ordering this type of dish. You see I'm not a fan of stuffed meatballs, or arancini, and this was basically the Asian version of that. So by all means if those things float your boat - go for it! You'll love it! 
Over all there were a few hits and misses. The service was pleasant, there was one older lady there training a junior server and the both of them were very sweet and friendly. The food came out pretty fast and the banchan  - oh jeeze, I almost ended the post before I talked about the banchan! Well, the server did something here that has NEVER happend to me before - she offered to refill my banchan WITHOUT me requesting it first. I was blown away. I eat through the banchan like nobodies business, the kimchi, the daikon, you name it I am all over it and I often have to have mine refilled once or twice during the course of the meal and both the lovely servers ofered to replenish my stash even before I had ask.  Extra brownie points in my books for that! 

Okay, now this is really the ending. Would I come back? Yes, because of the service and the location and maybe just to test the waters a few more times to decided if I really truly love the joint or not, but am I craving the maru ball all day 'er day? No. Sorry. 


Happy Eating! 

Maru
11 Cannon Street East
Hamilton, On
Maru on Urbanspoon


PS - check out my other adventures into Hamilton's Korean food scene here & here.

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