Quick Bites: Maru
East William Korean
by Bix Engels
The late adolescent male is a marvel of nature, with a hypercharged appetite and the metabolism to go with it. One Saturday afternoon at Maru, the new Korean place on East William, we watched in awe as a quartet of athletic young guys trudged in from the snow still in their soccer shorts and proceeded to order and consume a parade of shared dishes-bubbling stews, rice bowls, and steaming noodles like what their mothers might have made back home.
Maru food has that homey touch: it's warm, spicy, rib sticking, and comforting. The fare is the handiwork of owner Dukki Hong, who honed his chops at the fine Arirang on Oak Valley Drive before buying and sprucing up the former Seoul Korner last year.
Sip a cup of barley tea and mull the modest menu that revolves around rice dishes, hot pots, noodles, barbecue, and stir-fries, with a few scary fusion entries like a Spam-and-cheese hot pot. The miso soup is forgettable, but the main dishes are solid: dolsat bibim bap in a sizzling stone bowl filled with rice, crisp vegetables, and shaved beef and topped with a soft-yoked, sunny-side-up egg; and bulgogi, a voluminous plate of thin-sliced, grilled beef shining in a sweet-salty sauce. The requisite tiny banchan-dishes that might include kimchi, pickled seaweed, and tangy sprouts-change frequently, but on our visits they were more adequate than exceptional.
For pure heat, go for the jjamppong, thick wheat noodles with broad flat slices of carrots, julienne napa, slivered green onion, sliced shiitakes, and an interesting assortment of mussels, clams, shrimp, and octopus in a fiery, head-clearing broth. For subtlety and warmth, the manduguk is wonderful-these dumplings in a sublime broth could fix any winter blues. Most entrees are priced from $8 to $12, with well-priced lunch combinations at $7.50-$9.50.
Maru Korean Restaurant, 414 East William, 761-1977. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Closed Sun.
[Originally published in March, 2009.]