Originally a victim of a pandemic, Maru is once again open on the east side of Milwaukee, this time as a Korean bistro instead of a sushi restaurant.
It largely serves traditional Korean dishes, cooking them to order for lunch and dinner at 2150 N. Prospect Ave.
Menu items include grilled main courses such as beef bulgogi or eel; bibimbap made on hot stone; soups and stews, including spicy soft tofu stew, beef soup, military base stew with Spam, and duk mandoo soup with rice cake and dumplings; and noodle dishes like jap chae, sweet potato noodles.
It also offers appetizers including Korean fried wings, fried dumplings with vegetables or pork, and pancakes with onion, scallion, carrot, zucchini, and red peppers and serrano.
Prices range from $4.95 to $12.95 for starters and $14.95 to $24.95 for main dishes.
Three or four banchan, the accompaniments, are served before the starters; the range changes, but the must-haves are kimchi and cucumber kimchi, with pickled radishes, fried zucchini and grated carrots among the rotating banchan.
The menu is the same for lunch and dinner, but lunch prices are reduced by 10%, said general manager Hugo Campos.
He said he was working to expand the bar’s offerings, which are now soju, wine, beer and sake.
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Maru quietly opened in mid-February after a remodel of the space, to change the color palette and lighting. Business has grown since then, Campos said, and the restaurant can get especially busy on Friday and Saturday nights.
The restaurant usually features K-pop and other Korean music; UWM students settle in to watch K-dramas on their devices while having dinner, Campos said.
This isn’t the restaurant’s first identity change. Jongsoo Kim and his family first opened in Izumi’s former space as Kanpai 2 in 2018, a sushi restaurant like Kanpai’s brother in the Third Ward. It became Maru Sushi, an all-you-can-eat format, in March 2019 and closed during the March 2020 pandemic lockdown.
Campos said the owners sublet the space to another company, but that restaurant never opened. The Kim family decided to open the bistro rather than let the site sit empty.
Another all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant, Fushimi, is at 2116 N. Farwell Ave., about a five-minute walk from Maru. Another Korean restaurant that has long served traditional dishes, Seoul, was next to Maru but closed during the pandemic.
Some of the same traditional dishes served by Seoul are now on Maru’s menu.
“We are able to step in and fill that void for people,” Campos said.
Customers can make reservations (recommended Friday and Saturday nights) or order takeout online at marukoreanmke.com. DoorDash provides delivery. To reach by phone: (414) 210-4139. Most tables are for two or four, but one is for eight people, and the restaurant can seat up to 16 people.
Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, and 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. The restaurant just added Saturday lunches in April, Campos said.