Maru, the Korean BBQ Restaurant, based on Alma Road looks promising, offering an authentic taste of Korea. But having never eaten Korean food before, I don’t quite know what to expect, and I can’t help feeling a little brave as I step into a whole new culinary world.
It’s early evening, and the place is almost full of Koreans – a good sign. They sit at café-style tables, tucking into bowls of steaming soup and casseroles. The place has a relaxed feel about it, the décor is simple and it seems like a casual Korean café. I don’t see a BBQ in sight though, and begin to wonder why it’s called a BBQ restaurant.
The waitress runs over to us as soon as we enter, her smile stretches from ear to ear. I ask her about the BBQ option and she informs me that 2 people must order from the BBQ menu in order for the BBQ to be brought to the table. And so, my guest and I proceed to do just that, when she then informs me that actually, the minimum is 4 people. I’m disappointed in her reluctance as she seems to have simply changed her mind.
We order the dumplings to start, one portion boiled in soup, and one shallow fried, and for mains – Chicken Kasu (Bread Crumbed Chicken Cutlet and Salad) and Bul Go Gi Dup Bab (which was described as Stir Fried Sweet Potato Starch Noodle Topped on Rice – more on that later!)
Ten minutes later, our starters arrive. The fried dumplings are delectable, they’re crescent-shaped dumplings filled with tofu and vegetables, and they’re light and tasty and go well with the salty soya dipping sauce they’re served with. The dumpling soup has the same tasty dumplings, but this time they’re surrounded by a refreshing, thin soup made from stock, egg and a few bits of onion and carrot. It’s light yet flavourful with a peppery kick. I’m completely won over by the starters and impressed with the prices too, at less than £4 each, both dishes are a triumph.
The mains however, lack the same flavour and finesse. The sauce surrounding the crumbed chicken is unusually thick and sweet. The chicken itself is fine, and the crumbed coating is crisp but I’m surprised that it’s served with chips and an English salad. Perhaps this is a reflection of a country that is now very much Westernised, and whilst I had been expecting something a little more authentic, it’s probable that chicken and chips (albeit with an unusual sauce) is actually now a typical Korean dish.
Onto the ‘Sweet Potato Starch Noodles’ which look suspiciously like fried beef! I tuck into my plate of food regardless and the meat is tasty and marinated in a sticky, sweet dressing, but I wish there were more sauce, or something else to make the dish live up to the same standards as the starters. Essentially, I have a plate of fried beef and rice, and I actually thought I’d be getting something entirely different. I ask the waitress as she comes to clear our half full plates, what had happened with my noodles, and she looks at the menu confused. There’s been a misprint and it turns out that the description of my dish had somehow been duplicated from another, and in turn, I’d ended up with something completely different! I was offered no apology; I can imagine a vegetarian being quite annoyed about receiving a plate of meat instead of sweet potato!
I leave a little confused and somewhat disappointed by the inconsistent service. For me though, the restaurant does have a saving grace – those delicious little dumplings.