Maru is Kalamazoo’s new kid on the block, confidently facing down Food Dance’s famed façade in the downtown district. Located in the old train depot, the hip sushi joint’s open floor plan and large windows allow natural light to illuminate the exposed brick walls and dark hardwood flooring. The first floor boasts a modern, backlit bar; the upper level, a row of sushi chefs in multi-colored bandanas, hard at work creating their edible art.
Maru offers a twist on traditional Japanese cuisine, utilizing Asian ingredients and local beers paired alongside other cultural cuisines. For the 21 and up crowd, the extensive bar boasts many specialty cocktails, with daily drink specials and a weekday happy hour from 2:30 to 5:30 PM.
Maru opened March 4th, 2017, and is the sixth restaurant in a seven year, Michigan-based sushi enterprise. The menu contains a variety of appetizers, sushi rolls, salads, soups, noodle dishes, and more.
Their freshly steamed edamame is heated to perfection, the crisp beans popping from their pods with the slightest application of pressure. The soybeans are salted generously, and the bowl is large enough to satisfy a group of four—for the appetizer round at least.
The restaurant’s signature sushi rolls include ten to twelve pieces in large portions. The menu offers traditional options, such as the Philly or Cali roll, alongside twists on the old standby. Flashy rolls like the Sexy Bacon, Jaws, and Archer vegetarian roll with organic tofu, spice up the menu and make Maru unique from other sushi venues.
The Rio Grande is one of Maru’s popular fusion-style rolls, combining Mexican and Japanese style cuisine in one color-packed platter. The roll wraps avocado and asparagus with spicy southern staples: Serrano pepper, guacamole, and Pico de Gallo. The creamy guacamole, an alternative to the classic wasabi or ginger, pairs well with the salty soy sauce.
The Maru staff is quick to accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences. All rolls can be made with brown rice, and they offer gluten-free alternatives upon request. The establishment also offers an entire section of vegetarian rolls for the non-carnivorous folks.
The Boogie Veggie roll, a popular vegetarian dish, has a light and crisp texture, with the rice sticking together nicely throughout the stab-and-dip chop stick dance. The two thin sheets of tempura fried sweet potato on the side sweeten the otherwise salty ensemble.
Compared to other sushi options in the area, Maru is the pinnacle of the eat-in dining experience. Sushiya, with its new location this year on Gull Road, converted to a “quick-service and to-go venue,” according to their Facebook site. In comparison, Maru offers custom rolls delivered to the table, a more relaxed and personalized experience than the spattering of sushi buffets and to-go counters in the Kalamazoo area.
Maru’s service is also fairly quick. Most customers spend around an hour or two at the restaurant. However, the venue is small, with limited booth and high-top seating. For those craving sushi with a twist, especially on weekends, reservations are highly recommended.
Maru is the pinnacle of the eat-in dining experience
Maru’s service and style come at a slightly higher price tag than the more casual sushi venues.
However, Maru is still affordable. For an appetizer and a signature roll the bill totals between $15 and $20. Savvy savers can get smaller, 8-piece rolls for around $10, which isn’t bad for a college kid eating out on a budget.