Ann About Town: How to Maru

Tuesday, September 15, 2015, 7:00 am
By: 
Ann Nichols

There is no shortage of sushi in East Lansing. Without leaving the City limits, we can have standard rolls at a diner-style table, or sit authentically on the floor and be served sashimi with some sake in an ice bucket.

Maru is somewhere in the middle, with its minimalist interior, open case of seafood, and young, black-clad wait staff. Although the location in a strip mall doesn’t seem “scenic,” I enjoyed sitting at a table in the back corner of the restaurant near large, uncovered windows last Saturday. “It’s like eating sushi in a forest,” I remarked to Captain Carnivore as I looked out at a large conifer.

“A forest with an Applebee’s in it,” he replied.

We may have to agree to disagree about the whole “sushi in the forest” thing.

Maru’s menu is a combination of standard sushi restaurant fare and a few surprises. If you’re craving sushi, offerings include relatively small and simple rolls like spicy tuna and a California roll, as well as the restaurant’s signature and specialty rolls which have names like “Sexy Bacon,” “Miss Saigon,” and “Beach Party.” There is an entire section of vegetarian rolls on the menu, all rolls may be ordered with brown rice for an extra dollar, and more than one roll is made with a soy paper wrap instead of Nori (seaweed).

There is also a selection of sashimi and nigiri, which may be raw (yellowtail), seared (albacore tataki) or non-seafood (egg custard). There is also a “Chef’s Choice” option, and although I haven’t tried Maru’s sashimi or nigari yet, I plan to embark soon on that journey by ordering the chef’s choice sashimi plate or by sitting at the sushi bar and ordering the omakase platter of sashimi, nigari, and a special roll while I annoy the chef with endless questions.

For folks who don’t like sushi (although I always try to get newbies to try a roll with no raw ingredients) options include hibachi grills made with chicken, ribeye, rock shrimp, or tofu, donkatsu (a fried pork cutlet with curry sauce), and several udon (noodle) dishes including stir-fries and soup.

Although I usually choose sushi, I ventured the “Hibachi Veggie” on Saturday and received a plate of grilled, smoky broccoli, carrots, onions and other vegetables, a pile of fried teriyaki tofu, a large, crisp piece of tempura sweet potato and some rice. (I paid extra for brown rice.)

Captain Carnivore ordered the Holy Crab roll, which the menu describes accurately as “deep fried soft shell crab, crab stick, avocado and cucumber topped with crab salad, tempura crunch and eel sauce.” I’m a sushi fan partly because I find it beautiful to look at, and the Holy Crab did not disappoint in that regard.

Maru also has a bar, and a selection of “sharing plates” that lend themselves to a sort of Japanese tapas gathering as a light meal. An “Express Lunch” is available on weekdays, and a longstanding “special” offers 25% off Signature, Specialty, vegetarian rolls, and hibachi grills Monday – Friday from 2:30 pm - 5:30 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 am - 3:00 pm. The menu easily accommodates diners who are vegetarian, vegan, gluten- and dairy-free, and there are plenty of options for children of all levels of sushi-intrepidness.

Maru is located at 1500 W. Lake Lansing Road, at the intersection of Lake Lansing Road and Coolidge Road.