Almost 2 years ago (sadly, in pre-blog days), Alissa and I had the great privilege of booking a table at Marumo in Leeming. At the time, we were still fairly new Bateman residents and the $39 omakase-only restaurant was the best rated restaurant in the area. Bewildered by its seemingly crazy low asking price for a degustation, I tried in January 2013 to book a table for Alissa's birthday in March, only to discover that the next available month was July. Thankfully I got in when I did, as by March the restaurant was booked out for the entire year! Dining with our friends Justin, Sarah, Trevor and Annaliese, we were all blown away by the quality of the food we were getting for such a low asking price, as well as how disparate the clearly converted fish and chips shop's Ikea level furnishings were compared to the refined quality of the food. Thoroughly impressed, Justin tried to book a table straight away only to be informed that the restaurant was not accepting any further bookings as they were deciding whether to move or renovate.
Early last year, I discovered Marumo were indeed moving to Nedlands and I kept constant tabs on the progress until I knew they were reopening. I tried desperately to get a booking, but their booking system was even worse than before, meaning that calls didn't seem to get through and an entire month would fill up before you could even try to get an online booking. I once tried to get a reservation in at the very start of a booking day by sitting on the website until the time clocked over past midnight only to find the booking window was not open, and when I woke up at 8:30am all the tables were apparently taken! Booking at table at Attica was easier than this! Frustrated, I gave up for a few months until I saw that they had a new booking system that opened at 10am on the first Monday of the month for two months away. Giving it a shot again, I was relieved when I managed to booked a Tuesday night table for six in mid-January.
Joined by returning diners Trevor, Annaliese and Justin along with his friend Lyndsay, the 6 of us arrived at Marumo's new Nedlands location to find a very different restaurant. Unlike the somewhat makeshift appearance of the Leeming store, Marumo had a simple but effective momochromatic theme that seemed more in keeping with Chef Moe's cooking - the photo above does not do justice to how much nicer the space looks. Still an Omakase-only venue, the price had increased to $55 - still a very good deal considering the presumably higher rent of the Western Suburbs and the noticeably larger staff.
Soon after arrival, an Amuse Bouche of Pickled Squid was placed in front of us. A simple introductory bite, the Squid had a good sesame and ginger flavour that did not overdo the often very strong flavours. Given its small size, Lyndsay quite astutely commented that the dish might have been better served in a stone spoon. Regardless of serving vessel, we all agreed it played its role in whetting our appetite for more.
Our First Course of Beef Tenderloin & Nori was also one of the most loved dishes of the night. I'm not a massive beef eater, however even I had to agree that the super tender pieces of Tenderloin were melt in your mouth good, with the rich soy reduction and the light broth beneath adding generous dollops of flavour. The radish draped across the top had a pleasingly sweet citric flavour that we agreed was a nice touch. Justin said it all when he quipped that the dish was so good that he was sad that it had to be served in degustation size.
Inari, Cuttlefish & Herring Roe followed. As a fan of all things seafood, I really enjoyed this dish, although Trev and Lyndsay both felt it was a bit one note texturally. I appreciated that the cured cuttlefish had a nice delicate texture and that it was paired sympathetically with the delicious pop of the Herring Roe. The Inari below was a nice surprise; instead of the usual rice within, we found a nice, soft potato cake instead. Together, the components worked well as a refined flip and interesting take on a sushi classic.
Our third course of Tofu, Cucumber & Sesame was probably the least interesting dish of the evening. The Tofu's medium firmness was not to everyone's taste, and I would admit I prefer a good silken tofu over most firmer styles. Still, there was a lot to like about this dish; the thinly julienned cucumber gave the dish a nice refreshing crunch that was not overpowering in its flavour, the intense but balance saltiness of the Miso Glaze was very tasty, and the excellent Pickled Garlic's flavour was the MVP that helped boost an elevate the Tofu.
Like Antipasti platters at Italian restaurants and Ploughman's Lunches at Cellar Doors, its hard to judge the Chef's Selection of Sashimi as anything other than a sourcing job, however Marumo must be commended for particularly judicious sourcing and preparation. Our selection consisted of South Australian Hamachi, Tasmanian Salmon and Hoki Scallop from Japan, and all were exceptionally fresh and perfectly textured - being neither overly firm from rigor mortis or overly soft either. The Wasabi served was also impressive; where most Wasabi in Australia is basically not really Wasabi at all, our server explained that the Wasabi on our plates was the most legitimate and best quality Wasabi they could get before having to move to freshly grated, which is still very difficult to find in Australia. This was some of the best Sashimi I've had in Perth, and a step up from the comparable course we were served during our previous meal at Marumo.
A course of Tasmanian Salmon Belly Sushi was very similar to a dish we ate during our first visit to Marumo, however we all agreed it was another refinement. A multi layered Maki Roll, the dish was one of textural contrast and a veritable explosion of flavour. From the crunch of the Tempura Prawn, the perfectly seasoned and cooked rice and the deliciously rich and creamy mayonnaise, to nice roasty, burnt notes of the good quality torched Salmon Belly and the decadence of the Roe on top, this was a definite cut above all but the very best sushi restaurants in Perth.
Another carry over from the previous meal was a Palate Cleanser of Sorbet, this time Orange. A simple reset of the palate, the sorbet had a nice bitterness from rind that helped balance out any sweetness. This was definitely good in the context of the meal, and Trev noted that he felt he could eat more after this refreshing intermission.
Soy Braised Duck & Pumpkin served as our main, and was again an improvement when compared to the excellent if fairly orthodox Chicken Teriyaki we were served in Leeming. This confirmed something that the Sashimi course had suggested; the increase in price had definitely been put to good use in sourcing more interesting ingredients. The Duck was lovely, having a slow cooked, fall apart texture accompanied by a sweet and sticky braise that was very complex, rich and flavour. From a quality control point of view however, I should note that Annaliese's piece was unfortunately a touch dry - something for the restaurant to keep an eye on in the future, and a shame as everyone else's was perfectly cooked. The Pumpkin Puree was a real winner - so impossibly light that Justin was impressed enough to refer to it as being 'between existence and the immaterial'. With the crunch of the Taro Root chip to provide some crunch, this was probably my favourite course of the night and the most impressive show of Chef Moe's leap forward.
Finally, we were served a dessert of Yuzu, Peach & Green Tea. After such a rich main, it was nice to have a dessert that was not overly heavy. The Frozen Parfait of Yuzu and Peach had a nice sweetness and mild acidity, and the Bailey's Cream beneath gave the dish an additional creaminess. The Green Tea component was a nice biscuit crumble, and really help round the dish off as a very pleasant final course to end an excellent meal.
The Verdict: Excellent +
With 5 of the 6 of us having dined at Marumo before, we were in a unique position to see Chef Moe's progression from his days in Leeming, and we were all in agreement that this visit to Marumo was a definitely step up from the already impressive meal we had almost 2 years ago. The Beef Tenderloin, Sashimi, Tasmanian Salmon Belly Sushi and the Soy Braised Duck were all superb, and if the other courses were not quite as impressive, they were enjoyable nonetheless. Service was attentive without be obtrusive, and we appreciated that they were able to cater for Lyndsay's dietary requirements as she cannot eat animal fats. From a beverage standpoint, the green tea top ups were generous and frequent and as someone who keeps a decent cache of well sourced wine at home, I was happy that Marumo has remained BYO.
During our first visit, another customer referred to Marumo as being the best meal of her life; I wouldn't go so far then or now, but I would compare the new Marumo favourably to Nine Fine Food in Highgate as some of the best quality Japanese and best value refined cooking in town. Given its massive cult following, the difficulty of booking a table at Marumo can be a daunting experience, however it is definitely worth the effort. And like our recent dinner at Juniper & Bay, the very reasonable price $55 price tag makes it a perfect introduction to the wonderful world of the degustation dinner. I'm already planning visit #3.