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Maybe it’s time to squelch the disdain on the much-maligned pan-Asian restaurant.
Some restaurants, many restaurants actually, serve cuisine from multiple countries. A lot of times it doesn’t work, the restaurants sending out pad thai and bulgogi and sushi, and that model’s gotten a bad wrap.
“If I went to a pizza place and they served really good fried rice, I’d have no reason to complain,” says Michael Lee. “If it doesn’t come out well, then they failed.”
He owns one himself: Marumen in Fairfax, a ramen bar with Japanese and Korean dishes. And he’s about to open another.
Lee, a current MBA student at Georgetown University, picked up the keys Tuesday to what will be the Sterling location of Marumen.
Initially planned as a mix of Japanese and Korean dishes (“maru” refers to wooden floors in Korean and the suffix -men represents ramen), Marumen in Sterling will feature much of the same menu as the original. The slate of ramens, including the specialty ramens like Army (sausage, spam, kimchi), seafood and Japanese curry, will move over, as will some of the best-selling starters: karaage, chicharrones and the hashu chashu (pork belly and mozzarella over potatoes).
New in Cascades Overlook, taking over the space of short-lived Ocean Blue, will be more small, shareable plates like short ribs, spicy chicken thighs, assorted skewers and, maybe, dumplings. Some of the Fairfax native’s childhood favorites will also make the menu, like spam musubi, as well as salads by his mom, who collaborates on the menu. It’s her kimchi recipe used at the restaurant, and she often tastes dishes for input.
Earlier this week, the 29-year-old returned from a business school leadership program in Wyoming where he hiked everyday for the last 10 days. He’s about to hire a new chef, approve designs and floor plans (say goodbye to Ocean Blue’s fish tanks), rework the kitchen (add gear to handle the abundant heat of wok cooking) and prepare for a restaurant almost twice as big (200 seats) as his original in a converted Pizza Hut.
“I got my mind reset, so I feel like I’m good to go right now,” says Lee. Expect an October opening. // Marumen: 21438 Epicerie Plaza, Sterling