Personality crisis

Maru serves Korean and Japanese—we recommend the former

Sashimi bibimbap
Photo: Beverly Poppe

Last week, I led with information about a Korean taco truck that is sweeping Los Angeles, so it got me in the mood for Korean food. That led me to Maru, the newest and handsomest Korean restaurant in the city, located in the heart of Summerlin, on Village Center Circle.

You can’t miss the building, a Le Corbusier-like structure of glass and steel. Inside, the appointments are no less impressive; enormous hoods on top of the barbecue tables, glass walls, lots of plants and a separate sushi bar visible from the barbecue room through sleek glass panels.

One criticism of Maru is that it can’t seem to decide whether to be Japanese or Korean. You can order sushi and other Japanese dishes in the Korean barbecue room, which most of the people in here seem to be doing. But we had to wait a long time for our sushi, while the Korean dishes came willy-nilly. “There is a big take-out order,” explained our kindly Korean waitress. As sympathetic as she may have been, the first rule of service is this: A customer doesn’t care about a restaurant’s problems.

The Details

Restaurant Guide
2025 Village Center Circle. 360-6278.
Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.
Suggested dishes: kalbi, $31.99; dolsot bibimbap, $13.95; jap chae, $15.95.

That said, the service here is friendly and accommodating. When my roll arrived, billed as having crab, the crab turned out to be Alaskan pollock made to look like real crab. When I inquired as to whether or not the crab was real, they copped to its being imitation crab immediately, and when I voiced an objection, changed it for a different hand roll without charge.

Tiger Roll: Fried shrimp rolled with rice, seaweed, and spicy tuna on top.

Since this place belongs to the folks who own Korean Garden on Spring Mountain Road, though, I strongly recommend going Korean in here. At $31.99, the galbi, or sesame oil-marinated, charcoal-grilled short ribs of beef, are pricey, but the dish easily serves two, so given the fact that it is accompanied by pan’chan, an array of Korean side dishes, it feels like a bargain.

In fact, I asked our server to bring the pan’chan ASAP, and asked her how many there were. “Usually we give five,” she told me. But when I asked her to bring them all, she did so, bringing us a total of nine, at no extra charge. And I must say, they were all superb.

One side dish that always accompanies a Korean meal is kung na mul, yellow sprouts from the mung bean, delicious, perfectly cooked and glistening with oil and salt. Cooked spinach and kim’chee cucumbers were also present, as were tiny anchovies, smoked strips of squid, fish cakes and bean curd. One can make a meal of all these, especially when you consider the metal tins of steamed rice and the excellent house soup, a clear broth of beef and radish. But the meat’s the thing at any Korean restaurant, and that’s no different here.

One thing I don’t like to do, and this makes me diverge from the Koreans eating here, is do my own cooking at the table. So if you are in that company, just ask them to cook it in the kitchen. I did, and they happily complied.

In no time flat, out came beautifully marinated, nicely cooked strips of beef, sizzling on an iron platter with sliced onion. Combined with the side dishes and soups, one order of a meat dish here is satisfying, and two qualify as a feast.

There are several other dishes to try. One of the best Korean dishes, and certainly a lunch favorite, is called dolsot bibimbap, my favorite Asian rice dish. Picture a bowl of rice topped with various cold and cooked vegetables, chopped beef and a cooked egg. A dolsot is an iron pot, and when the rice cooks, it crusts to a golden brown around the sides of the pot. Meanwhile, if you like your bibimbap spicy, you have the additional option to mix in spoonfuls of a hot bean paste, served on the side.

Then there is jap chae, slippery, clean mung-bean noodles, sautéed with chopped meat and vegetables, a delicious carb-loader. On the lighter side, I tried salmon-skin salad from the sushi bar, normally one of my faves. This version didn’t impress me. The components were all fine, except for a mouth-tingling, overly acidic dressing.

Maybe next time, I’ll ensconce myself at the sushi bar, but I’ll be thinking about those short ribs.


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