Sunday, August 12, 2012

Marukai SD - Quick Bento Visit

Whoo Whee, 'twas another hot day... And another busy day. I decided to drop by our Marukai to grab a quick bento lunch. While Nijiya still usually remains my go-to for their overall quality and value, I've been noticing both Mitsuwa and Marukai the last six months or so stepping up their bento game. While Mitsuwa SD probably had the most room for it, my blue ribbon for Most Improved if I had one has to go to the folks at Marukai SD.

Above, a Loco Moco-don I got ($4.98). Was technically a "Japanese Hambaagu (Hamburg Steak)-don" as it used a savory-sweet Demi Glace sauce rather than your brown gravy.  Actually reminded me of the style served in many trendy Internet Cafes in Japan, your shredded cabbage, squeeze of Kewpie and all.

The thick patty had a nice flavor and also tender helped by some of the usual fillers typical to Hambaagu (sauteed onions, milk, panko, etc.). Won't be your loco moco without the fried egg of course. Yolkalicious. I left much of the rice because I also had their fried rice (which I forgot to take a picture of). Was still fluffy with some bits of Spam and even a Karaage to the side. I think these guys somehow figured out how to wire tap into my Asian Dude Food brain crave center, ha.

Other temptations though were some Spam Musubis. These were the wrapped kind that I prefer and used to seeing back home. Much less messy. Now if they'd only do a version with Spam & Egg, I'd be a total regular. :)

I did remember to document the Omurice Bento that also comes with Karaage. If you grew up in Japan you'd understand the occasional strange craving of a classic chicken-ketchup-rice blanketed in a thin almost rare omelet. Btw, I recently heard the origins of Omurice was none other than the legendary Rengatei in Ginza. Was said first to be a Makanai, or your behind the scenes staff meal. At first the rice mixed into the eggs, then later became the separate folded in style seen today said inspired by the Chakin-zushi (茶巾ずし).

The famous Tampopo Omurice from the movie few may know was actualized by Taimeiken, an equally long standing and respected Japanese Yoshoku restaurant, but the idea actually came from the director of the movie, Juzo Itami himself. He wanted to create a special Omurice that resembled the Tampopo (dandelion) flower and came up with the idea of splitting a very rare omelet inside out on top of the rice mound. In fact if you see their menu, it'll still say "Tampopo Omurice - Itami Juzo-fu (Itami Juzo style..)".

Sorry the pic above is actually from a Mitsuwa (I think was Torrance) a few months back but a rare sighting of a Tampopo-style Omurice... This one seemed to also have a cream sauce over.

Back to Marukai SD, your standard Karaage Curry. A no brainer good Japanese comfort food.

The Chicken Amazu (sweet / sour) bento I thought was ok. Reminded me of Chicken Nanban, minus the Japanese tartar sauce (though the tartar sauce in Chicken Nanban was maybe more a relatively recent addition).

The only thing I didn't care for which I had earlier in the year was a Naporitan that was inconspicuously hand labeled "spagueti." It was affordable enough but not done in the style of preparation I prefer. Was pretty soggy and the onions and bell peppers still bitter from not giving that high heat searing love.

But anyway, just a brief snapshot today. Hope everyone is staying cool!

Marukai Market (SD), 8175 Balboa Ave, San Diego, CA 92111

And a little fun humor to cap the weekend...


KirkK said...

Hey Dennis - The Chicken Amazu is my go to bento item at Marukai.....I think, when it's not too soggy, it's probably the best item they have.

caninecologne said...

hi dennis - i like the bentos at marukai! good prices and selection for a small store. my favorite japanese to go foods are from nijiya though. great post! i have to try that demi-glace over the hamburger, i'll just scrape off that egg yolk! :)

K and S said...

haven't been to the marukai here in hawaii in awhile, but it looks like you have a nice selection of bentos there in SD.

Dennis K. said...

Hi Kirk! I got lucky the day and all the bentos were still warm having been just made. I like the Chicken Amazu too!

Hi CC! I remember you weren't much of a runny yolk fan. Yeah it's nice to have a larger option to choose from.

Hi Kat! They're maybe on the smaller side but priced right and I'm digging the newer selection.