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Maru: Japanese Ramen & Izakaya Bar

Maru is permanently closed. Looking for a place that’s still open? Check out our restaurant reviews and recommendations for establishments that are still open and serving great food in Kingston.

As you may be aware, Harvey and I are big fans of sushi and have been known to review a sushi restaurant or two.  It’s not entirely due to a borderline obsession – Kingston has a ton to choose from!  Recently a new Japanese restaurant opened that specializes not in sushi, but in noodles – my second favourite thing.  Maru (no, not the cat) is located on King Street in a location that has seen a few restaurants come and go over the past decade.  I truly hope after our experience this past weekend, that Maru is here to stay.

Maru, Japanese Ramen & Izakaya Bar

We started our lunch with the Gyoza: six deep fried pork and vegetable dumplings ($6.95) and Edamame: steamed and lightly salted Japanese soybeans ($3.50).  The Edamame were plump and delicious and came almost immediately after ordering.  The dumplings were incredible.  Everyone at the table agreed that they were quite possibly the best dumplings we’d ever sampled.  The meat was moist and perfectly seasoned and the pan frying was just right – crispy on the edges but not greasy.  As you can see by the photo, they were quite large and six was plenty for all four of us to enjoy.  I’m fairly certain it’s fair to say that these dumplings were made from scratch at the restaurant.
Maru, Japanese Ramen & Izakaya Bar

When the waiter arrived with this tray of Salmon Teriyaki: grilled salmon server over a bed of stir-fry ($12.95), we were all surprised that everything on it was for one person.  Once again, you can see there is an enormous amount of fish and the side dishes were a happy, unexpected surprise.  Our friend who ordered this dish said the fish was cooked a little more than she would have liked but not enough to ruin the meal by any means.  It had just the right amount of terriyaki glaze and wasn’t too sweet thanks to the stir fried bean sprouts that helped balance the flavour.  For just under $13, I thought this dish offered an incredibly generous amount of food.
Maru, Japanese Ramen & Izakaya Bar

This is the Chicken Katsu Ramen: chicken bulet served with rice and salad ($10.95).  I’m fairly certain that the next time I visit Maru, I will be going for the shrimp version of this delicious looking soup.  Our friend who ordered this one said the flavours were terrific – light curry without overwhelming the whole dish – and the chicken was beautifully cooked.  There were enough noodles to satisfy but not so much that they overwhelmed the broth.  Seeing as she finished this giant bowl of soup, I would say it was thoroughly enjoyed.
Maru, Japanese Ramen & Izakaya Bar

Harvey and I tried the Yaki Ramen: stir fried ramen with chicken and vegetables ($10.95).  It was a difficult decision.  The menu has photos of all the dishes and they all look terrific.  I decided to go with stir fry when I saw it come out for another customer.  It came out sizzling and smelling fantastic.  The flavour was simple – a pretty standard soy sauce flavour with stir fried bean sprouts and scallions on top – good comfort food.  Although I enjoyed it for the most part, I did find it a touch on the greasy side and the amount of chicken it offered was pretty disappointing.  I think I got about 4 pieces and they were pretty tiny – some egg on top might be a good addition to this dish.  I will definitely opt for soup next time.

The restaurant itself is clean and nicely decorated with many remnants of Ristorante Luigina (RIP) as well as Japanese murals and other decorative items placed around the dining room.  The staff were incredibly friendly and greeted us with big smiles the moment we arrived.  One fun touch was the little call button on each table.  We never had to use it but it made us feel very well taken care of.

I will not hesitate to visit Maru again and I hope you will all do the same.  It’s affordable and delicious and most importantly, it’s different.  Don’t be fooled by our order either, there are plenty of options for vegetarians and they also do take out.  Go have a taste for yourself!

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Danielle Lennon

Danielle Lennon is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. She was the Editor, Community Event Coordinator and Contributor at-large (2008-2018). She is otherwise employed as a section violinist with the Kingston Symphony, violin teacher, studio musician and cat lover. Learn more about Danielle...

7 thoughts on “Maru: Japanese Ramen & Izakaya Bar

  • February 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm
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    Ok, so here comes the second opinion.

    My Japanese wife and I went to Maru the other night hoping, based on this review and some other reports from friends, that it wasn't quite as bad as all the other 'Japanese' restaurants we've tried in Kingston.

    On the plus side, it is a nice space and all the front-of-house staff were really lovely.

    However, in terms of the food we don't have much positive to say. Ramen is simple food – it's really all about the quality of the noodles and the stock. Everything else is extra. All half-decent ramen places make their own noodles. It's not hard. And they use good quality pork stock (what makes ramen places quite smelly) – except in the case of Taiwanese-style ramen, which is made with a soy-based stock. Neither are true of Maru. Standard supermarket ramen in cheap stock. My wife said it reminded her of school canteens and highway rest stops. If you like that kind of thing, fine, but the average person (and I do mean anyone reading this) could do just as well at home.

    Oh, and we also had the gyoza. It's hard to do bad gyoza, but Maru managed it. Utterly tasteless filling (except for the aroma of raw garlic), soggy and undercooked. And pretty obviously using exactly the same commercial wrappers as we use at home to make our own gyoza (which are so much better than these were).

    If I go back again, I think I would only go to try the Korean food they offer (at the back of the menu). Frankly, I am getting really fed up with what people allow restaurants to get away with here and tired of the poor excuses for Japanese food in Canada in particular. We aren't that demanding, we don't want haute cuisine every time, we just want the basics done right. So I really wish Koreans running these restaurants were able to ignore the consumer fashion for ersatz Japanese food and could concentrate on doing good Korean food, which is exactly what I feel like on a cold winter's day anyway. Unfortunately people seem to want to keep paying for poor quality Japanese food, so that's what gets offered, and nothing gets better.

    Sorry, I'd really like to have been able to be more positive but I can't be. However, I would still encourage everyone to try Maru for themselves at least once and make up your own minds.

    • February 13, 2012 at 8:16 am
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      Not sure if you had a different batch of gyoza than us, but what I tasted was quite nicely seasoned and as per the photo above, it was crispy rather than soggy.

      Having never visited a ramen resto before, I wasn't too sure what to expect. Mine was not an amazing meal, but I think that has a lot to do with knowing what to order and what to expect. Clearly your tastebuds have a leg up on folks thanks to your wife. I would definitely go back, and I would be interested in trying out ramen in other cities to see how this compares.

  • February 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm
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    We tried it today! It wasn't bad – I had their spicy miso ramen which definitely had a spicy broth but it really lacked some body. My girlfriend had their karasaki ramen but we both wish they would start using some nice braised pork belly instead of sliced pork loin. My all-time favourite ramen place on this side of the world is Ippudo in NYC but it's nice to have a local place to head to to fill those ramen joneses. We'll definitely be back.

    You should try their chicken karaage next time, it was a really great izakaya to start with.

  • February 13, 2012 at 4:44 pm
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    I've been to Maru 4 times since discovering it in January. I've had gyoza every time and am delighted every time. I've sampled most of the dishes mentioned above (because other people were with me!), plus quite a few options from the Korean Bar page (last page in the menu). The Kimchi Omelette was very unusual and delicious, the Army soup was an enormous portion and had great Kimchi flavour -it did come with pieces of spam which are not my thing, I would ask for those to be omitted next time. My daughter devoured the corn and cheese dish and would only share one yummy bite.

    What I'm really impressed with is the friendliness of the staff, the fantastic service and the great use of a difficult space. We peaked into the basement Karaoke Bar, it looked like a lot of fun!

  • February 18, 2012 at 10:00 am
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    I've only been once, and enjoyed the spicy ramen I had. I didn't know there was a kareoke bar in the basement! I was wondering what they were doing with all that space. So a restaurant on the main floor, kareoke in the basement, and I think the izakaya part is upstairs?

    I do want to try some of the korean dishes from the last page of the menu. I'll be going back!

  • February 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm
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    I guess I'm not the wild child I used to be, because I've never been past it late at night (after midnight anyway) but it does say it's open until 2 most nights.

  • March 6, 2012 at 5:45 pm
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    Love it…feels like you've left the city, no the country, all together (upstairs at least). I don't have much experience eating ramen, so can't comment on the quality vs other, however I enjoyed what I ordered. Gyoza is nothing short of addictive. The kareoke bar in the basement is for private bookings only. Skip Bubba's and hit this place late on Friday or Saturday…open till 2am.

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