Tucked away on Broadway near the corner of Cambie is a busy little cafe that serves up simple, delicious food: the Marulilu Cafe.
I went to Marulilu for lunch a few weeks ago. Despite showing up at about 1:30’ish, the cafe was packed and alive with the laughs and conversations of a weekend afternoon. Luckily, a stray table had just been left open, and my wife and I pounced on it before perusing the menu.
Marulilu’s menu is classic Japanese cafe. Loads of delicious breakfast goodies, light lunch fares (salads, rice burgers, etc.) and more traditional Japanese comfort food like katsudon, oyakodon, and okonomiyaki. There is also a lengthy list of drinks on offer, including Marulilu’s yummy macha lattes and coffee jelly drinks. The selection of drinks alone (especially if, as wife is, you have a weakness for coffee jelly) are worth a trip here.
We ordered a few drinks (featured in this first photo), and I ordered a rice burger set. The set comes with a duo of rice burger patties, the first adorned with sukiyaki sauce and the second kimchi sauce. It also came with a salad (seasoned with a surprisingly good salad dressing) and a miso soup. The staff was very friendly and all smiles.
It is here, however, that I pause to comment on the weakest link in the Marulilu experience: Its ordering system. I’ve read a review or two that has complained about this. Essentially, you go to the counter, order, and then have a seat. Though in theory it is not a problem, few people were aware of this, and the line up of those who were snaked awkwardly around the tables in the restaurant, adding a layer of claustrophobia to what was a cozy atmosphere.** But I digress with my picky comment…back to the food.
The presentation of my lunch set was very cute (reminiscent of MOS Burger) and the portion size was ideal for lunch. The rice burger patties were just how I like them, crispy and crunchy on the outside, and moist and warm on the inside. The different sauces were also delicious. The miso soup was nothing to write home about, but its inclusion in my lunch combo was welcome, and its earthy flavour counterbalanced the sweet and spicy of the burgers, and the sweet and acid of the salad.
Before leaving, as we relaxed with our drinks, the staff promptly came by to take away the empty dishes to give us more space. It was a nice touch and shows that despite being busy as bees, the servers somehow still manage to be attentive to the customers.
Overall, Marulilu was a very nice experience. It is very much a “what you see is what you get” cafe – unpretentious and friendly with good food. The restaurant is also relatively good value, and the food will leave you satiated and satisfied. If you’re in the neighbourhood, or even if you’re not, I ‘d suggest heading over to Marulilu for a pleasant meal or a leisurely break.
[** This unfortunate situation may be related to the bizarre layout of the restaurant. The kitchen/counter juts out and takes out a massive amount of unnecessary space, and the bathroom is enormous. One can’t help but wonder why this is, and why the issue hasn’t been remedied.]