Hoboken: January 2006 Archives

Sushi and Me: Review of Maru Sushi

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I, myself, was not in a family of sushi lovers. I used to be one of those people who would laugh at the raw fish eaters and part of my ignorance was because I was never properly introduced to sushi.

My first experience with sushi was in Ocean City, NJ, on the boardwalk at some hole in the wall establishment run by people who were as Asian as me. It was terrible, I hated it and it just reaffirmed my hatred of raw fish for many years. In 1999, my brother and his wife moved to New York, in an apartment on Duane Street in SoHo. They, being the quintessential yuppies, loved sushi and decided to formally get me interested in it - by taking me to a proper sushi bar.

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They decided on Tomoe, on Thompson. If you haven't been to Tomoe, well it certainly ranks up there with one of the better sushi bars in the city. What it lacks in decor and size it certainly makes up for in fish quality and deliciousness. It began with much trepidation, but my fears were soon allayed and I was hooked (no pun intended).

Fast forward seven years and i'm now in Hoboken, where I eat sushi at least once a week. My trips to Tomoe are few and far between, and I find myself trying various establishments in Hoboken over the years for my sushi fix. In recent memory, our town has seen an explosive growth of sushi or Japanese restaurants: Sushi Lounge, Sushi House, Robongi, and Illuzion to name a few.

Before the sushi purists read the rest, I will save us all time. Don't email me and or add comments about how Hoboken sushi can't compare to New York. Yes, I know this. New York rules. But for Hoboken, and my standards, the quality of the fish I have discovered has been pleasantly surprising..

Up until lately, I would usually dine at Sushi Lounge every Wednesday, at the bar around 7pm. I would sit down and order the same thing every week - a bottle of Sapporo, an order of edamame & a sushi deluxe (Sushi Lounge calls it the "Sushi Rock"). When I eat sushi, I add only a small bit of soy sauce (with wasabi mixed in) to the edge of the sushi. Pet Peeve Alert: I really hate people who DUNK the entire piece of fish into their bowl and saturate the entire thing. Why not just drink the soy sauce, people?

Anyhow, that was my routine for a few weeks. I liked being able to sit at a bar, order sushi and have a drink. My only thing that I didn't like about Sushi Lounge is that the Sapporo was $7 for a 16 ounce bottle. Sure, I understand the whole cost/drink ratio of bars and restaurants, but $7? The beer was ice cold, and I loved that, but paying over $20 for my food and 1/3 of that was for 1 drink - it would always annoy me when I got the bill. But I would pay my 20% and still would walk away satisfied.

If I didn't want to sit down for sushi, I would normally order from Robongi. When Robongi first opened, I hated it. I would constantly find scales in my fish, and whoever the head chef was, didn't do a good job. But, as of the last year, Robongi has been delicious and the scale problem disappeared. This is the place that I would order takeout, and enjoy eating at my apartment.

Yesterday some people were talking about sushi on Hobokenchat, and we talked about our interests in sushi. It was Wednesday and I was jonesing for some raw fish, but didn't want to walk in the rain (I forgot my umbrella) to Sushi Lounge.

Instead, I went home and thought I would try Illuzion for the first time. I went to the 7th and Park liquor store and bought a 6 bottle pack of Sapporo, for $8.50. $8.50! I stopped by the dry cleaner to get my clothes at Sarah Cleaners. The girl who works there (is it Sarah? Or is Sarah the owner and she doesn't work the place?) is Korean and extremely nice. She has the most adorable Yorkie named Asia, that I love to play with each time I go in there.

I was holding my six pack and she said, "It has been a long day I need a drink too!" I replied, "Yea why don't you come back to my place and I will give you a cup of Furey..."

I kid! I kid!

No, I mentioned how I was going to order sushi and the first thing she said was, "Maru!" and gestured towards Washington Street.

Ah, yes, Maru. The red headed stepchild of Hoboken sushi. Before the recent influx of japanese restaurants, Maru has always been the quiet favorite amongst the established Hoboken resident. I never really went there because i'm your typical Gen X - we like the trendy looking places over the non-trendy. Sushi Lounge was, well, cool. Flat screen TV's and black glossy bar with a great soundsystem playing house music. I was drawn into that place like a fly on sugar.

Maru was stodgy and old. Like the defunct Tamura II - it just didn't visually appeal to me. So I never went to that restaurant. In the last year or so, I noticed that they actually renovated their interior, and it wasn't on the same level as Sushi Lounge, it looked much nicer inside.

Once Sarah (?) mentioned Maru, I decided to give them a try again.

I did go to Maru once before. The first time I tried Maru I was passing by the restaurant one night and dedided to try it. I saw an absolutely gorgeous girl sitting in the window, who was waiting for sushi and talking on a cell phone. I wanted her - and I wanted sushi, so I went in to order. Sadly the cell phone girl was engrossed in her conversation and I didn't get to chat her up. My second strike was that this night that one of their chefs called out sick. I literally sat there for 30 minutes for a takeout order of a sushi deluxe. I wasn't happy on both counts and I really wasn't impressed with my sushi order.

But I usually give restaurants a second chance. I learned in my days of restaurant reviews for Hobokeni - that you really shouldn't go to a restaurant once and try to write a review. Businesses are like people - they can have good nights or bad nights.

I went home, iced down the Sapporo and ordered from Maru over the phone. My order was delivered 30 minutes later, and i'm trying to think the best way to describe this...

It was absolutely fucking God damn ridiculously delicious.

Yes, I just took the Lord's name in vain. I'm sorry, it had to be done.

Holy shit (there I go again), what the fuck just happened? This was dee-lic-ious (that's three syllables people). I was in 7th Heaven with that takeout order, drinking my $1.50 Sapporo and watching TV while tapping my feet and wolfing down the fish.

Farewell, Robongi! I loved ya, babe, but I have a new takeout lover in my life.

If you haven't tried Maru, well, make sure you try it soon:
Hours - (Please confirm) Mon-Thu 11:30am-3pm, 5pm-10:30pm, Fri 11:30am-3pm, 5pm-11pm, Sat 12noon-11pm, Sun 12noon-10pm
Address - 219 Washington St
Telephone - (201) 798-3311

Free Advice: Never order fish on a Monday. I always get sushi on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday for good reason - that is usually when you have the best chances to get FRESH fish.

On the other side of the Hudson, I try, in vain to explain why Hoboken is a great town to live in. Most of the reactions I get vary from feigned amusement to outright derision for anything associated with New Jersey.

I know where that is coming from. I lived outside Philadelphia and we used to think the same think about "people from Jersey". Making fun of a Jersey resident was like an Englishman making fun of someone from Poland - there was always a good joke waiting to make fun of those people because of some air of superiority that is assumed.

If you talk to anyone from New York City, especially Manhattan, there is a chip on their shoulder attitude that most have. They could be from Topeka, Kansas and lived in Manhattan for 2 years, but they were a "New Yorker" now because they saw Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in concert before anyone else and go to Magnolia Bakery on Saturdays, while walking their puggle in the West Village, plus talking on their black RAZR cell phone, and pushing their Peg Perego Pliko P3 Classico Stroller with their colorful "garden boots".

Can Hoboken be compared to Manhattan? Of course not. Manhattan is enormous, with so many different neighborhoods, from the likes of the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, The Village, SoHo, NoHo, Murray Hill and Hell's Kitchen. I wouldn't even dare to throw Hoboken to the wolves and think we contend.

There are plenty of negatives about Hoboken, but i'm here to list a few positives, that are things I like...

1. I like being able to go into New York and then come home to Hoboken. It is just "less busy" to me. I feel like when I walk around the New York sidewalks I need to be going somewhere.

2. I like the girls around here. Plain and simple. Every day I take the PATH train to work, go to the bars around town, or workout at the gym (ok, to be honest my gym time has been bad as of late) I constantly see beautiful women that are "my type".

3. One of my past times before the blog was writing restaurant reviews for Hobokeni. I would go to the restaurant, have a meal, pay for it and then interview the owners afterwards for a "guy on the street" perspective of their establishment. I wasn't trying to come off with phony pretenses or false airs, I was just a regular guy writing a review. I love the restaurants we have in town, there are so many great places to choose from Japanese to Italian to Indian to Chinese to classic American. Aside from Frankie and Jonnie's - I think Hoboken could use a quality steakhouse (Arthur's is very average), I dream of the day "Peter Luger: Hoboken" opens.

4. I like my car. I may only use it twice a month for a weekend getaway, but I lived without a car for years and still missed having the freedom to go where I want when I wanted. Sure, its an added expense, but try renting a parking spot in New York City, it is about triple of what you would pay in Hoboken. Or you can just park on the street, as long as if you move the car every week and it costs $10 for a year long parking pass.

5. Festivals. I can't count them all but Hoboken has about 5-6 block parties a year. Arts & Music Festival is the most popular - and that is run twice a year in the summer. We have our own St. Patrick's Day Parade, and it's a blast.

6. The People. I like everyone I meet around here. There is a great community that Hoboken has, from people who have been long time residents to the newcomers who want to contribute to the town. More often than not I find myself using the term "down to earth" when describing someone who lives in Hoboken. We get a lot of down to earth people around here, and it seems that the snobby/class A types are over in Manhattan. They can stay there, thanks.

7. One of the best skylines across the water. Hey, I love New York City, too. I just like living in Hoboken and one of the best parts of my day is my walk home from the PATH station, along the Hudson, and looking at the New York City skyline. It's picturesque, and on certain nights when the moon is just right, almost magical. You really feel like you are living next to the seat of the civilized world, what it must have felt like to been living in or around Rome 2,000 years ago.

People always ask me, "Why don't you move into New York city?". My #1 reason is that my rent is fairly inexpensive, and i'd rather use the money I save renting to treat myself in whatever way I choose. I have a lot of purchase power every month by saving about $800-1,000 by not living in New York. I can do just about anything a New Yorker can do - I can go to the same shows, plays, bars, clubs and restaurants. I have the PATH train which runs all night to take me home, just like if I were living in Queens, Brooklyn or the Bronx.

When I started this website, I was going to call it The Sixth Borough, thesixthborough.com - but the variations of that name were all taken by other sites. I really do feel like Hoboken is the real sixth borough to New York, but we are like the Rodney Dangerfield of boroughs - we get no respect.

Maybe the day will change when that happens. With the standard websites like Hobokeni.com and the latest one, RealHoboken.com, I think a lot of opinions about this town are slowly changing over the years. Sure, we aren't going to be in the same stratospehere as Manhattan, but we certainly just can't be considered "Jersey". We are more like New York Jersey.

Before anyone from New York reads this and says, "Wait, New York is so much better...". Yes, you win. But Hoboken certainly is a great little town for those of us who do like it around here.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Hoboken category from January 2006.

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