Admittedly, my knowledge of Little Tokyo is pretty confined to what is on 1st Street and 3rd Street, between Central and San Pedro. The area extends beyond this but that’s all I’m ever around and actively engaging. I had a long subway walk to the Arts District yesterday from the new, fancy Civic Center station and I decided to take a few detours. I ended up power walking through Weller Court and noticed what seemed to be a huge ass market. This is Marukai Market, a one stop shop for Japanese food and lifestyle items. It was a great place to wander around coveting things for thirty minutes, trying to figure out what to grab for dinner.
The market is like a condensed Little Tokyo equipped with a front lifestyle store of clothes and homewares that extends into a proper super market, drink wonderland, and treat center. The space is surprisingly big for a market tucked away in an alley behind tinted windows. It’s very full and everything is built out to the max with goods and goods and goods. It is a part of a chain, which you definitely catch on to, but it is a curious store.
Aside from the generous selection of fish and meat cut for you to start shabu shabu-ing as you leave the store, there was a shit ton of sake. While not a big sake fan, I am a big fan of gawking at bottles and I did that for a while, taking photos of the ones that I thought looked the coolest. I’m sure some of you readers are more knowledgable in the subject but–if they taste as nice as they look–this is a great place to peruse sake for gifting. They were pretty affordable, too.
The obvious comparison is to neighborhood buddy Nijiya Market a few blocks away. While Nijiya is a tad smaller and home grown, Marukai is a ‘roided out supermarket in comparison. It’s much like a Trader Joe’s versus a Wal-Mart: one is just the facts and food while the other goes above and beyond and is almost excessive in what it offers. If you are a fan of Japanese food and/or Japanese culture, stop into Marukai next time you are in the area. They have lots of goodies for you to peruse through.