This classy Sushi restaurant opened its doors late 2011 to an area already flooded with great eats. The world famous Lamberts Café is right across the street with its hot, buttery throwed rolls and endless free pass-a-rounds. But that doesn’t even stack up to the exquisite difference in the new Maru Sushi and Grill. Located at 1745 James River Rd, across from Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy, this sophisticated dining experience left us wanting more.
We decided to pop in for lunch on a random Friday and were pleasantly surprised by how ornate and creative the décor was. A huge world map is inventively embedded into the enormous east wall. Two sides of the restaurant offer intimacy and quiet reflection while the room’s divider acts as a side booth to one row of tables. Each table was meticulously arranged and the tinted windows, soothing music and peaceful black and red décor screamed “Date Night.” This really is a perfect atmosphere for a lovely evening but we were there for lunch . . . not to be outdone by any supper diner, though.
We decided to check out a wide gamut of rolls, sashimi and specialties. We quickly noticed this was not your average California or Rainbow Roll type of place. There were unique names and descriptions for items I had never heard of. I was pleasantly relieved to find that one side of the write-on menu offered detailed descriptions of everything. No need to continually ask your server, “Now what’s in that?” Of course, as midwest Sushi goes, there was a lot of cream cheese in things which I tend to stay away from. To me, that doesn’t sound “authentic.”
We started with a variety of rolls and a unique sashimi dish. The Butterfly Kiss is thin slices of salmon wrapped around shredded crab and avocado with slices of orange and Ponzu sauce drizzled on top. It surrounds a stack of thin shredded daikon and beets. With a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds the dish just sings. The Sweet Ponzu sauce is light and refreshing. This is a perfect starter or to share.
Next we tried the Maru Tower of Love. This unique and creative dish offers three stacks shaped in a heart on top of one another. The three sauces--spicy mayo, wasabi cream and thick ponzu/hoisin--are slashed across the plate like an artist’s canvas. Set in the middle is a heart shape of sushi rice topped with a thin layer of wasabi. On top of that is a smaller heart of shredded crab with seasoning and to top it off, a heart shaped mix of chopped tuna with seasoned mirin throughout. For garnish there are three different colors of roe and shredded beets on top. The servers stand around and can perform the smashing ritual for you or you are welcome to do it yourself with two large spoons.
Simply start to deconstruct the tower and smash the flavors together. I had a couple of the wait staff staring while we did it ourselves and felt a little awkward as if I wasn’t doing it right but they smiled and said, “just dig in.” So that’s what we did. I tried the dish with chopsticks but that didn’t work so well. Out came the fork and we shoveled piles of this glorious creation into our mouths. It was the perfect bite all the way through with the creamy sauces, sushi rice, tuna and crab. This is something that is on our menu every time now.
For a last bite we tried the White Russian. It's a phenomenal trio of Super White Tuna (Escolar), which, I might add, needs to be eaten in small quantities to avoid a gastronomical failure. Spicy tuna is on the inside and black roe is carefully placed atop each piece. This is surrounded by their Sweet Ponzu and creamy, spicy sauce. This was a bite of pure heaven with the buttery super white tuna and crunch of cucumber bursting in your mouth.
Maru is certainly one to check out again and again. I can’t wait to see the dinner menu and try the other numerous concoctions. They have dozens of non-sushi items such as edamame, crab rangoons, teriyaki (everything) and many cooked items. Check out Maru Sushi and Grill for a truly unique sushi experience.