maruyu ramen
Located across from a power station and nestled in a tiny plaza with really only a Donut Star and a bunch of small businesses as neighbors, Ma Ru Yu is in the running for worst location for a new ramenya.

The restaurant is homey, with simple decorations and cutesy hand-made signs on the walls to announce special items not on the menu. There’s a great hole-in-the-wall vibe, yet the place is very clean. The two waitresses there were both very friendly and efficient. The menu touts that there are ingredients flown in fresh from Japan and that they don’t use MSG. Hmm…I actually like MSG…I ended up ordering a shoyu ramen and an order of gyoza and hoped for the best. The food took a while even though the place wasn’t very crowded.

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I was underwhelmed by the way the ramen looked: really curly noodles that reminded me of instant ramen, half a marinated egg, some green onions, chashu, and a submerged piece of naruto. My obligatory first sip of soup changed my first impression real quick: the shoyu soup was good! The soup had a strong flavor with a robust fishy component. It’s different than the more pork and chicken oriented shoyu ramen that’s more prevalent around these parts. What’s even more surprising is how flavorful the broth was without any added MSG. On the other hand, some people might find it a bit salty. The noodles, though, didn’t impress me that much. The texture was a touch on the hard side of al dente, didn’t have much flavor and were a bit too flour-y for my taste. The hard-boiled egg had a typical hard-boiled texture…nothing to write home about, but — wow — did someone leave them in the marinade and forget about them? The egg was really too salty. I hope it was a fluke. And last, but not least, the small, thin slices of chashu were surprisingly tender. Though they weren’t quite melt-in-your-mouth tender, they were darn tasty.

maruyu ramen

I don’t usually pay close attention to what ramenyas charge for extra toppings, but Ma Ru Yu’s pricing is unusual enough for me to say a few words. Charging $1.50 for 3 slices of Chashu is a good deal in my book, but charging the same buck fifty for menma and a dollar for beni shoga seems a bit on the steep side in comparison. And no, none of their ramen comes with menma, an unusual decision. Of course, that just makes me more curious…is their menma special? Is it possibly worth the $1.50. Call me a sucker, but I think I’ve just talked myself into trying it next time.

Oh yes, the gyoza. The gyoza didn’t really stand out. They were decent and mildly garlicky and that’s all I have to report.

Though the owner has had lots of restaurant experience in Japan, Ma Ru Yu has only been open since April. There’s enough potential for greatness, and I wish them the best of luck. I have a special fondness for hole-in-the-walls like this, and I’ll definitely be back to see if things improve. Ma Ru Yu gets a 7.

Ma Ru Yu
3748 W. Warner Ave
Santa Ana, CA 92704
Monday-Saturday: 11am-3pm, 5pm-9pm
Closed Sunday

(Yes, I know the big sign outside says “Maruyu,” but everything else they have says “Ma Ru Yu”)

10 thoughts on “ramen rating: maruyu – santa ana, ca”

  1. Nice find! I guess you know what I’ll be doing this weekend…haha. Do you know where the owner is from? That soup looks and sounds (fishy) like an Asahikawa shoyu.

  2. I felt the same about the Gyoza, not too much flavor inside, but it had a good crunchiness.

    I recommend the Kimchi Ramen, the kimchi flavor dilutes the saltiness of the soup a bit more but does not over power it. =) I’ve also tried the chicken cutlet curry, i thought it was saltier than the usual, but the chicken was tender and it wasn’t oily.

  3. cutie: thanks, and thanks for reading!

    Keizo: not sure where the owner is from…besides Japan! i was trying to keep a low profile ’cause she was already suspicious with all the picture taking. haha

    ac: too bad…my gyoza wasn’t crunchy 🙁 hmm…i wonder if the chef has a salt-tooth? but i want to try their other stuff. i’ve actually heard good things about their takoyaki of all things!

  4. Based on the review I went to the restaurant. Even though I had directions I missed it the first time around because it is in such a absolutely funky location.

    My wife and daughter had the miso ramen which was…ok. It seemed to have an alcohol component to it which was odd to me (maybe not odd to others). The gyoza was “eh”. Even though it was crispy on the outside the filling was a little too mushy. I had the Kimchee ramen which I really liked. The kimchee complemented the soup and contrary to edjusted I like al dente noodles. I would easily eat it again but would have to try other menu items to see if the menu is well rounded.

    I talked to the owner and she said that the soup is a melange of many different spices and stocks. Because they strive for all natural/healthy (no MSG and oils) they take great pains in making their soup. I agree that their soup is very good and unique. This is the owner’s first (and so far only) shop. She said that she learned her trade from her mother who has 6 successful shops in Japan.

  5. that guy: Glad I was able to “spread the love” about a new place. I actually prefer al dente noodles but when I went, it was a bit on the harder-than-al-dente side. I’m planning on going again to try the other ramen dishes. The kimchee ramen sounds like a winner. Thanks for reporting back!

  6. The owner had a quite impressive resume. She was a daughter of 6 restaurants owner in Japan. She learned most of receipt from her mom from ramen to gyoza. She stayed in China for quite a few years when she was a working actress for few films. If you happen to stop by the shops few more times and speak to her, I believe that she will be more than welcome to show you the pics.

    Just another recommendation, she created this “sesame” ramen which is quite decent. However, it is a lil pricy and too rich for the summer. But great addition

  7. Charles: Yeah, I usually try to keep a low profile on my first visit, just in case the ramen’s not that great to warrant a good review, but good enough for more visits. I’d hate to have the people making my food be mad at me, haha!

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