I tried to go to Marumo last year when I first heard about it. A hidden gem tucked away in what had previously been a Leeming fish and chip shop, that was serving up amazing Japanese food. Now last year in May I had secured a booking for late November. Yep that’s how long their wait list was, but I was so excited to at least have a date in the calendar when I would be going. Then as fate would have it I ended up having a work conference in Sydney the week of my booking and I couldn’t go. Woe was me! Thankfully my sister and her friend went along and had a wonderful time and shared similar praise to others on the food front. Now I knew that a move for Marumo was on the cards over the end of the year from Leeming to Nedlands. Slightly closer to home for me and it looked like it would house a few more seats. But the challenge still remained. I needed to get a booking first! So I watched and waited, regularly checking on their website until finally I managed to secure a June booking!! Oh the sublime glee when I received that confirmation email. These days they only release bookings two months in advance and the next month becomes available on the first of each month. So it’s a big race (but you can asked to be placed on their wait list and notified if a last minute table becomes available).
Now located in Chelsea Village along Stirling Highway, Marumo is still tucked out of the way and very much understated. GG and I were greeted by friendly staff at the door and shown to our table. On our night they had 26 guests but it is more regularly 24. It is a small place but it means you can spy on Chef Mo and the action in the kitchen. A plain printed sheet of white paper displays the menu, which lists the main ingredients but doesn’t hint at how they’ll be prepared. Part of the fun I suppose. And the menu might be simply presented but it also affords Chef Mo with the ultimate flexibility as to what is on the menu on a daily basis and keeps all the ingredients as seasonal as possible. That’s always a good thing 🙂
With that in mind, this was what was on the menu on our visit. We started with a small squid salad just to kick start the taste buds into action. It was thinly sliced with an interesting flavour which I believe came from a pickled veg, possibly onion. As we were both peckish, it vanished in a flash. Other tables were already seated when we arrived and it seems as though arrival time can be from 7 til 730 or so and every course is presented to tables in the same order that guests have been seated. Both the floor and the kitchen have this down pat, it’s such a seamless process.
The first official course was the beef tataki. Fine slices of rare beef were arranged in a small bowl with fragrant sauce and an artistic piece of lotus root. Such a pretty veg, a perfect garnish. The beef just melted in your mouth and I really enjoyed the accompanying sauce. I wasn’t entirely sure what was in it, but it was a delight. An interesting mix, but the perfect balance of sweet and sour.
Next up was a seafood duo – scallops and lobster. Not at all how I had expected this course to be presented but such was the wonder of this meal, you were kept guessing and delighted at the creativity of Chef Mo. It was a cold dish and the lobster had been sandwiched between a thin pastry. Balanced on top was a thin slice of golden beet and then three round scallops. There was a pleasant citrusy dressing on this dish and all the flavours worked well together. And in recent times I haven’t been overly sold on scallops, but I really enjoyed them prepared this way.
I love gyoza. Such dainty crescent moon little delights! So when I saw pork gyoza on the menu I said to GG – I hope there’s at least two. And there were 3! Oh happy days! They were so good with the flavourful porky centre. I could have eaten a dozen, maybe even a baker’s dozen, but yeah yeah I knew I needed to save room for other dishes on the menu 🙂
Sashimi followed on elegant long narrow plates which stylishly displayed the kingfish, tuna and salmon slices. You could see that a layer of water had been frozen along the bottom of the plates to keep everything chilled. It worked a treat and the chill was appreciated when we delved into the wasabi. Hot damn! Warned that it was fresh and packed a punch, we tentatively smeared a little on a piece of fish. You didn’t notice it initially but the heat built and they weren’t wrong, it was very powerful! Yet there was something strangely addictive about the rising burn and I persisted with a little on each slice of fish, if just in some vain attempt to help build up a tolerance. I suspect it will take longer than one dish of sashimi to completely endure this burning wasabi but either way I thought the fish was lovely and the decorative shreds of cucumber were also pleasingly cooling.
Salmon belly sushi. For some reason it was the one dish on the menu that I was slightly nervous about. Not really sure why. I mean I eat pork belly, how different could salmon belly really be? (Haha of course I realise these are vastly different animals but I was trying to convince myself all would be well). And wow were my worries misplaced. Flavour wise it was just beautiful. As with all the other seafood, the salmon belly was incredibly fresh and had been lightly seared. Then in the centre of the sushi roll was a crispy tempura prawn and also a decorative smattering of bright orange caviar on top. The four slices were a colourful vision on the plate. The challenge though was that we were encouraged to eat the whole piece in one mouthful to best appreciate the contrasting flavours. Hmm…. They were generous pieces, but I had to give it a go. And it was worthwhile trying. It was nice having the crunch from the tempura, the warmth from the salmon and the pop pop of the caviar, but I wouldn’t say I felt all that lady like with my mouth so full to the brim with sushi. I opted to bite the other pieces in half so they were slightly more manageable, but I gave it a whirl.
While the size of the dishes had started on the more modest side I was definitely happy to know there were only two more courses to go at this point. Well two official ones but a refreshing citrus palate cleanser did make a surprise appearance but thankfully sorbet isn’t overly filling. And who doesn’t love to cleanse the palate between courses?
The final savoury course was a soy braised duck. It actually struck me as quite French inspired, but the soy braise was in keeping with the other flavours on the menu. The duck just fell off the bone and everyone was served a fairly generous sized leg, which meant there was plenty of delicious duck meat to enjoy. And if I wasn’t feeling full before, I certainly was after the duck.
Thankfully the final dish was dessert and there is always room for dessert. It’s just how it goes. A Black Sesame and Bailey Parfait presented beautifully. Wonderfully creamy, it actually had a fairly strong Baileys flavour, which I didn’t mind one iota! Big Baileys fan over here. It’s not something I have too often, but occasionally in a glass with a dash of milk over ice, it’s liquid yum. The parfait wasn’t too sweet either, which I also enjoyed.
We made quick work of the dessert and settled the bill. $55pp for that amazing food and more green tea than I’ve ever drunk in one sitting is just exceptional value and for that reason alone I can see why this place is so popular. But for me I think what makes Marumo so special is the passion that Chef Mo has for what he is doing. He is dishing up creative and delicious dishes that are showing the best seasonal and fresh produce available on the day and he is doing it with flair! The rest of the staff are a knowledgeable and friendly bunch who can detail all the dishes to you as they arrive and will ensure that your green tea and water glasses are never empty for long.
Yes, it is difficult to get a booking, but it is well worth the effort. If you miss out on snagging one for September when the first of July rolls around then send through an email and ask to be waitlisted. You won’t be disappointed!