Marukai Market Little Tokyo-New Digs in Weller Court
They’re still on the main floor of Weller Court but across the courtyard. The new space seems a bit larger but I was a bit disoriented by the brightness of the lighting. I asked one of the checkers if the location was bigger and she wasn’t sure although it has a much more modern, corporate look than the previous location. I have always had divided loyalty between the Nijiya Market in the Plaza and Marukai. Neither is a good destination for produce unless you were going to cook it yesterday but there’s a swell farmer’s market in Weller Court on Saturdays. If marketing in Little Tokyo is my only destination I will usually go for Marukai as the parking is a bit more civilized. The Weller Court Lot is easy to maneuver. It's a quick trip from car to store. If we’re eating at Suehiro and have already made the commitment to suck up and park, we’ll happily make a pits stop at Nijiya, after himself has made me drive around for an hour in search of street parking. Nijiya also validates parking but the lot is sort of a pain and in the evening you have to leave a five buck deposit for the parking, which is never repaid with interest. Both have a good selection of bento, which I suspect peaks out at lunch time, unsuitable to my schedule. The new Marukai really did seem to have the largest selection I’d ever seen in either market and when I stopped by at 5:00 p.m. on a weeknight, things were marked down 20 and 30% and I was able to assemble a some really great quality delicious stuff which provided dinner at home and lunch box coverage for the next day. The other imported crap I have no business buying like weird flavored hard candies, salty rice crackery things and dried vegetable snacks were well represented. The store (I was there last week) seemed to just have opened and there were greeters in aprons who tried to get me to sign up for a credit card. Also, for Japanese Market aficionados, I purchased several months ago at Nijiya these cunning little sweet potato and chestnut snacks in foil vacuum bags. They were delicious and as I recall, the only added ingredient is salt. They were not freeze dried but seemed somehow roasted. These have been AWOL however and any pointers would be appreciated. My extremely biased and slightly bad-assed food blog is http://manifeasto.blogspot.com/
Have you been to the Marukai in Costa Mesa, and if so, how does it compare? There are these great glass bowls with hard plastic lids that seal better than any other container I've ever used. I can only find them at the Costa Mesa Marukai, though. I've been to the Little Tokyo store a couple of times, but it seemed really small and wasn't as "fun" for me. I don't live down there, so it's more of a destination when I'm traveling and I don't buy much fresh food there.
The sweet potato/chestnut snacks sound good!