Nestled into the first floor of an office building on Wilshire in the former Sasabune space (before they moved down the street) is Santa Monica's new Japanese-French fusion restaurant, Maru*. With a menu that ranges from fresh sushi to curry lamb, there's certainly a little something for everyone. And though such an expansive menu usually troubles me (a restaurant trying to do it all sometimes is a bit unfocused), Maru is making it work, as each dish is grounded in the experience and background of head chef Jason Park. Keep scrolling to check out all the wonderful dishes and our final thoughts!
We started off with a little sampler of sashimi and sushi. Featuring some of the chef's choices for the best fish of the day, all of the fish was super fresh. There was a little tiny bit of different sauces on each piece, which did a great job of enhancing the flavor without overwhelming it. Maru also has an omakase menu, which we're dying to try.
With our first salad course came an arguarita, which was an arugula cocktail. It sounds a bit scary, but it was actually really refreshing and light, while a bit of that pepper-y flavor of the arugula gave it some depth. Basically, if green juice actually tasted good and had alcohol in it, it would be this cocktail.
We had a few salads to start, the first of which was a proscuitto and walnut salad. The salad was a nice little palette cleanser; the butter lettuce was delicious, it was perfectly and lightly dressed, and the proscuitto added just a bit of salty meatiness. The little slices of apple and bits of walnut added a nice Fall feel to it.
The sword lettuce salad was our second, and was also really nice. The runny egg/proscuitto combination was a fun element, and like the first, this salad was lightly dressed and flavorful. However, while tasty, these two salads were very similar, and it seems a bit superfluous to have both on the menu.
We also got another cocktail, the Pome Rosa. It was really fruity with hints of lime and pomegranate. The ginger added a nice tang, and the cucumber and mint made it really refreshing. Overall, a great (and very dangerous) cocktail.
Our first entree course was a marinated black cod, which I'm always a fan of. The cod was crispy on top and really soft and buttery on the inside (if it doesn't instantly fall apart, then it's not right). As someone that's usually not a huge fan of brown rice (ugh, isn't that the healthy stuff?), the rice was really fluffy and moist, as it had absorbed a good amount of the broth. The broth was one of my favorite parts: really rich and flavorful, with little moments of that tart, meyer lemon flavor. All together, a fantastic dish and one of my favorite of the night.
I also love scallops, and this one was perfectly cooked. The pistachio crust featured a bit of mustard, which definitely cleared the sinuses. I like that the mustard cut through a lot of the richness of the overall meal, and this was a really nice scallop presentation.
The New York Steak was definitely a surprise, as this is primarily a seafood restaurant. But it was really good. It was a classic presentation of steak and potatoes-- simple, but well cooked. The steak was a bit fatty, and the potatoes could've been a bit softer, but I liked how the soy-espresso sauce tied in the Japanese influence.
The curry lamb was another dish that seemed a bit out of left field, but surprisingly worked within the progression of the meal. The crispy rice was really the standout here; crispy on top and soft on the bottom, it also sopped up a lot of that flavorful curry sauce. The lamb was also really flavorful, but a tiny bit overcooked. Overall, this dish was definitely a punch of flavor, and really good.
Gotta love a restaurant with a dessert cocktail, and this "Candy Cap Dream" was like a more sinful and lighter eggnog. I liked that the dark chocolate added a slight bitterness that cut through the cream and kept this from being too sweet and sugary. Really fun.
The desserts began with a berry cobbler, which was really good. It was definitely a bit more bready on the inside than filled with berries, but nonetheless really good.
The bread pudding was a bit more up my alley, which is surprising as I'm usually not a big bread-pudding gal. I guess it was the chocolate-y inside that did it for me (obviously). I also loved how the outside was like a bunch of crispy croutons, forming a nice crust that contrasted the soft, melty inside. Like the salads, these desserts seemed very similar, and I was surprised they had both on the menu (especially since they were served with the same bourbon vanilla ice cream).
Overall, the whole meal was great, and we loved it. It was rich, flavorful, and yet executed with a certain...delicacy and attention to detail. I didn't mind the breadth of the menu, but I did feel that some dishes were a bit repetitive. However, that wouldn't stop me from coming back, which I definitely plan to do. If you're in Santa Monica and looking for a delicious, filling dinner with great drink pairings, then you should definitely eat here now.
Products/restaurants marked with an asterisk* denote gifted or free items/meals. For more information about how this affects my editorial policy, please click here.