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Jan 20, 2006 07:17 PM

Maru Review (Homestyle Korean)

  • d

Had an absolutely wonderful dinner this week at a little homestyle Korean restaurant called Maru (356 S. Western Ave., # 201, LA, CA 90020 (213) 386-6188). The place is small and unassuming, upstairs in a strip mall on Western near 4th. Valet parking is easy, and costs $2. Maru is spotlessly clean, sparsely decorated, and their printed menu (fortunately for me) has reasonably good English translations. Also, the folks working there speak English well, so ordering shouldn't be too much of a problem for non-Korean speakers. We sat down and ate in the restaurant, but from what I could see, they do a pretty decent carry-out business as well.

Anyway, four of us had dinner together and shared pretty much all of the dishes. We ordered something called dak dori tang (and for those of you who speak Korean or have a deeper knowledge of the cuisine, I apologize in advance for my idiotic descriptions and Korean/English transliterations), which was a sweet, spicy stew of chicken, potatoes, onions, and lots and lots of chili. The density of flavor in this dish is really hard to describe; it's like everything about it was super concentrated and intense. I think could actually eat this every day. Wonderful stuff! Also got a galbi jjim, which was beef short ribs, mushrooms and veggies in a sweet soy broth. I love this kind of slow-cooked beef that's all tender and falls apart into individual beef fibers when you put it in your mouth. The sweetness and gentleness of the soy and cooked onions pairs really well with this sort of a slow cooked braise, and the broth is a perfect match for a bowl of hot, sticky rice. Also had a dish called dweji galbi, which was slices of pork belly and ribs slathered in sweet hot pepper sauce with onions and served sizzling on a iron plate. Seriously, I could barely stop eating this. Hot, sweet, rich, crispy, juicy and porky. We also shared a fiery red bubbling pot of kimchi stew and a nice pork soup, also served bubbling hot in a small iron cauldron. My least favorite dish of the evening, was of course, the one that I picked out -- seafood and scallion pancakes that were good, but not nearly as delicious as the chicken, beef, and pork dishes. Also, of course, lots of excellent, homemade panchan, including several very nice kimchi and a dish of blue crab marinated in chili and vinegar. Dessert was a glass of sweet ginger flavored rice tea -- a perfectly soothing cap for a wonderful meal.

Someone else picked up the tab, so I didn't see what the monetary damages were, but most of the entrees were in the $10 range. All-in-all, I loved this place. It is simple, clean, very friendly, and most of all, serves large helpings of food with deeply wonderful Korean flavors. Actually better, I think, than the vast majority of food I had in Seoul. I will definitely be back, and will, I think, be ordering take out on a very regular basis.

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  1. Okay, I'm going to have to go make lunch because reading this really got me hungry.

    Thanks for the review, David; it's bookmarked.

    1. b
      Barham Turner

      Thanks to your review, four of us ate at Maru last evening. I had called to ascertain if they were open and had one of those phone calls where the person on the other end had no idea what I was saying. "No English," the person said, and when I replied slowly asking if they were open she hung up on me.

      Ah well, still game, we arrived to an empty restaurant with three women chatting toward the back. Turns out they are the chef/waitstaff/owner/whatever. They spoke no English but called to the back something like "English are here" and a Hispanic guy came out and ran interference for us. We had many of the same things you did, including the delicious sweet-spicy sauced chicken dish, the kimchee soup (whew! hot!) and the panchan, along with mung bean pancakaes, beef short ribs and pork ribs. The food was very tasty and it was quite an adventure. Halfway through our meal a young girl came in and sat down--I think she was a daughter--and she provided all other necessary translation. She said they are working on an English menu, although the menu they offered was fairly self-explanatory.

      They also let us open and drink our own wine, although we had to drink it in our choice of either sky-blue heavy plastic tea cups or tiny shot glasses. I opted for the former.

      We did really like the food and the bill was about $18 each including tip.

      Thanks for the lead! People should try this place as they were doing no business at all on Monday evening. It's got a Western Ave. address but is accessed off 4th street in a strip mall.

      356 S. Western Ave.
      Second Floor
      Los Angeles (Koreatown)


      1. Had lunch yesterday; I had the rib stew with the sweet tasty broth and the kimchee stew, though hot was very flavorful. Side dishes were fresh; place was not crowded only one other table of customers and a few take out. I also had no problem ordering as the menu mentions the title of the dish in english as well as korean and there are pictures. I would definitely go again.

        1. Is this restaurant new? I'm intrigued by any sort of "home food", Korean or not. Thanks for the review!

          1. t
            Trent G. Anderson

            Well... after reading the positive reviews, I decided to go for lunch with the sole purpose of gorging myself silly. Walked into the restaurant around noon,open sign on the door. Then, for the first time in over 50 years of dining out, two woman emerged from the kitchen and, shaking their fingers at me said, no, no... and that was the extent of the conversation.

            One of the women went to the door and turned the open sign into a closed. Well. I was wearing shoes, with socks, long pants, Tommy Bahama shirt, NY Times tucked under my arm. Is it because I am not a Korean?

            So, I've just tucked it away in my surreal moment books of living in L.A. for the last 35 years.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Trent G. Anderson

              I also went there due to David's review, and I had an odd, unpleasant experience the first time. I went there, arriving just after 7pm on a Saturday night. It was closed and empty, even tho the sign on the door clearly says "Open to 9pm". I asked the guard, and he says it closes at 7pm. What kind of dinner place closes at 7pm on a saturday night? That's prime time everywhere else. And I had an unpleasant run-in with a couple of old Korean b*tches who wouldn't let me use the mall's public restroom, for no discernable reason.

              I tried again a week later, last Sat night. I got there at 5pm. They were open, but they were empty and looked like they hadn't had a customer all day, and weren't expecting any. I don't know how this place stays open. The single, bored waitress leapt to her feet as I walked in, however, and she was very nice and attentive. They didn't have one dish I wanted, but the three entrees I got to go were the best Korean I've ever had. I'm definetly going back, and I hope you will give it another try.