Below the Curry House in “Li’l Tokes” is a friendly neighborhood market with a claustrophobic layout, a hundred rules (no rollerblading in the store; “absolutely no photography”), and a hundred awesome deals: Marukai Market Place. Marukai is a chain of 9 stores – from Gardena to West LA – that has something for everybody (I’m particularly fond of the Cow Brand soap that they carry, and the dozens of Pocky flavors on the shelves). But the main feature that keeps me coming back is their massive selection of sushi rolls and bowls.
You name it, Marukai has got it: Spam musubi, nori hand rolls, nori-wrapped rice balls, bento boxes, teriyaki bowls, california rolls, tempura, octopus… and everything is what I would consider reasonable. For example, 8-piece California rolls are $3.95, massive teriyaki bowls and bento boxes in the $5.00 range. And then there are my cheapskate-approved items: The Spam Musubi ($1.29) and nori hand rolls ($1.68). The kicker? Everything in the sushi case is marked down by 20% in the late afternoon! So, when I’m skating home from work, I can blow $2.50 on a hand roll and some musubi and feel like the richest man in the world.
Spam musubi (AKA “Special Ham”) is a salty treat that you have to try at least once. Aloha Cafe on 2nd has a great, freshly made, fat version for $2.50, but it’s more fun to eat it on the go (and still cold from the deli case) instead of as an appetizer in a restaurant. Incredibly satisfying.
On the other hand, Nori hand rolls demand your undivided attention. They are a little more delicate, and I’m sure some stoners out there will liken them to rolling a salty spliff (actually, someone has probably tried to smoke one at some point). Marukai sells the roll-your-own variety of the hand roll, with every element individually packed in a neat cylinder package. I’ve tried the salmon (slice of salmon with roe), shrimp tempura, california, and yellow tail varieties but there are usually many more available when everything in the case is still full price. The “do-it-yourself” approach is actually a lot of fun (but my wife has seen me roll them, and she’s not impressed), and at a final discounted price of $1.34, these are typically the first items to be sold out.
Marukai is the place to go if you are craving the sushi roll experience, but you don’t want to go through the rigmarole of sitting in a sushi bar and spending too much money. It hits the spot, and the quality is “good enough for me”. I’m particularly stoked about scoring a shrimp tempura hand roll at this bargain basement price. You just don’t see deals like this very often. But be warned: skip the “wasabi” packet that is included with most of the rolls. This shit is toxic – it makes me feel like everything inside my skull (which isn’t much) is liquefying and seeping through my eye sockets, with even the tiniest taste. It’s pure evil, in a greenish-grey hue. Just FYI.
Marukai is located at:
123 Onizuka St. #105
Los Angeles, CA. 90012
Dude, this is Li’l Tokes. Probably one of the most fun areas to skate around in. There’s always a bump or a painted curb at hand, but the most fun is the Starbucks on Alameda, with the brick volcano set up in front. They’ve skate-stopped this thing (to no avail), but that only made it a teeny bit more challenging. The awesome Non-Factory skate shop is a block away, so stop in and say “Hi”!