Takoyaki and the Japanese Curry Burrito Bento at Maru
I was more excited by the news of the opening of Maru Global than any other restaurant opening this winter; the prospect of fresh takoyaki in Center City made me squeal with joy. The fried, octopus dough balls are one of my favorite foods. Since its shaky opening (they were open, then they weren’t, then they still weren’t…) the small establishment has been evolving and attempting to work out the kinks.
Inside, Maru has a few small tables, an open kitchen, and a selection of Japanese candy and drinks to go along with the Japanese menu. Just don’t expect any sushi. Fun, Japanese street food is served, with an emphasis on local and organic ingredients and a playful take on fusion flavors. Maru is also able to make accommodations for vegan diets and food allergies.
Surprisingly it was not the takoyaki that I was most taken with, it was actually the Curry Burrito Bento.
The Japanese Burrito Bento Box ($9.99) comes with the curry burrito, a small house salad, a side dish of the day, a dessert takoyaki, a soda, and a “Japanese Candy Surprise”. The side dish of the day that came with my order was a healthy whole grains salad topped with a potent basil coulis that I would have loved more of.
The curry burrito is inventive and nicely put together. Japanese curry is unique, it has a sweetness to it. Any curryphobes should give it a try before ruling it out. The curry inside the burrito had chunks of beef and potato along with a lot of rice.
Not to ruin the surprise, but the accompanying candy is a piece of Japanese fruit chew. The dessert takoyaki is the chocolate chip version, which understandably tasted like gooey chocolate chip pancake balls. The whole bento combo is a great balanced lunch in an easy to transport bento box.
The burrito is also available on its own for $6.99.
Or you could order the Don mono curry over rice bowl, this could end up being a better deal than getting the solo burrito- more curry for your buck in the bowl.
I had mixed opinions about some of the other side dishes offered. I had high hopes for the octopus salad, that was a mistake. The $3 price tag should have tipped me off… this octopus did not taste fresh at all, and the shreds of carrot, daikon, and cucumber had no hint of the Ponzu sauce it claimed to come with. The hand cut french fries and spicy mayo, however, tasted great. I also enjoyed the creamy potato salad, though I am not quite sure where the Japanese influence comes in with that.
Along with the standard octopus balls, Maru has some appealing very non-traditional takoyaki options.
Unfortunately, after many attempts, I have not been able to try the traditional octopus takoyaki- Maru has been out of octopus every time I have visited. Boo! Shrimp worked as a decent substitute. I enjoyed pretty much all of the creative flavor concepts: sweet and sour miso, spicy shrimp, the pizza with the awesome basil coulis again, and I even liked the combo of flavors in the Philly cheesesteak version. Unfortunately, the texture of the balls was not quite spot on. I had requested for the takoyaki to stay on the grill longer, but the outer crispness and inner molteness that normally drives me wild was not there. However, a later visit showed some improvement and a move towards nailing the texture element. I was told this could be because the grill is becoming more “seasoned” with use, which makes sense. So, perhaps the takoyaki of my dreams will be available at Maru soon.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Japanese curry? In a burrito? Brilliant!
- Unique Japanese street food that you can’t really get anywhere else
- Finally, a takoyaki joint in Philly!
- Vegan options
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- They constantly run out of octopus
- The takoyaki has not yet been perfected
- Closed Mondays
Maru, 255 S 10th St (btw Locust and Spruce St), 267-273-0567