Maru Sushi and Korean BBQ: Don’t Be Afraid to Eat What You Can’t Pronounce

Jaclyn’s Pick:

Maru Sushi Korean Grill
5036 S 108th St
Fare: Sushi Bar and Korean Grill
Cost: $80 for 2 drinks, 2 appetizers, two meals and shared dessert
Reservations: Not needed

When I was a kid, my parents had a family friend from Korea. She used to cook us authentic Korean food: glass noodle stir fry (Japchae), spicy dried squid (Ojingeochae Muchim), traditional Korean BBQ (Bulgogi) … I loved it. And wanting to enjoy these flavors once again,  I suggested to Martha we go searching for it.

Now, Omaha isn’t exactly a hot spot for Korean food. So we both put it to Facebook, looking for recommendations. And our friends all pointed us to Maru.

An unassuming exterior opens to a host station and entrance that is full of “Best of Omaha” proclamation posters. Far as we can tell, Maru has a streak of being voted the best Korean Omaha has to offer and we were eager to find out why.

Jaclyn’s Guinness Blonde ($4.95) and Martha’s Lady Staark Martini ($9)

The menu offered traditional Asian drinks, such as sake, but since we’d recently been down that road, we just ordered what sounded good. For me, that was a Guinness Blonde. For Martha, it was a martini called the Lady Stark (holla G.O.T. fans!). It had Kahlua, chocolate liqueur and vodka.

We also got the spicy crab roll because when sushi is available, it’s hard not to order it. It was good, we liked it and it fulfilled our taste for sushi for the evening.

Walking in a little after 5pm, the restaurant was still ‘waking up’ for the evening, having opened it’s doors at 4:30pm for the dinner crowd. We had the restaurant to ourselves for a while and the awesome, undivided attention of our server Armand. He answered all of our questions, served everything with a helping of kindness and patience and even recommended a few extra tips for getting the most out of our Korean food experience.

We both ordered our own sizzling bowls of Bibimbap ($15 each) — I opted for the Beef Bulgogi and Martha got the Spicy Pork and Armand recommended we add a fried egg ($1.50) to the top. So we did.  Because everything comes out piping hot and still cooking, Armand also explained we will want to quickly start scraping the sides of the bowl and thoroughly mixing the contents. This will finish cooking the egg and ensure that the food doesn’t stick to the bottom and sides of the stone bowls.

My Beef Bulgogi Bibimbap consisted of sliced tenderloin marinated in the chef’s special sauce mixed with Korean fried rice, garden veggies and green onion. I enjoyed the hints of sweet and spicy I got in each bite. And overall, it satisfied the flavorful memories I’d been searching for.

Martha’s Spicy Pork Bibimbap had the same core ingredients with the right amount of heat for her palate. And she liked the occasional crunchy bite of the scorched rice.

Both of us agreed that the only thing that would’ve made them better is more meat.

Cheesecake Tempura ($8)

Our dessert options were green tea or red bean ice cream and cheesecake tempura. Unsure about the first two, I though it best to put my feelings about cheesecake aside (generally, meh?) and go for the familiar. I expected a cheesecake-type filling, but instead we found a literal round piece of cheesecake — crust and all — inside the tempura breading.

I probably wouldn’t get it again, but that’s me and my relationship with cheesecake.  Martha enjoyed everything about it — crispy, warm outside and cool, creamy cheesecakey inside.  But that may also be because it’s the first time we’ve enjoyed cheesecake on a NFF adventure.

As it turns out, our friends steered us in the right direction for authentic Korean food. And for that, we give Maru two forks up.

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