From the folks behind Bartini and The Retrospective comes this ramen bar and izakaya inspired by fictional manga hooker, Mariko (created by Japanese artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi). Drink from a list of warm and cold sakes including Manazuru Junmai Ginjo ($12/glass, $70/bottle) from Fukui and Kujirano Hirune ($14/glass, $75/bottle) from Akita. There’s also Japanese whisky like Nikka Black ($12/glass, $$170/bottle) and beer such as Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale ($16). To eat, find ramen (from $16) and tempura (from $18).
This latest project by the folks behind Bartini, and retro-themed eatery The Retrospective, is an izakaya just off Keong Saik Road (a former red light district), named after fictional manga streetwalker Mariko.
On paper, it’s a really fitting name. Japanese pub grub is sassy and shamelessly over the top—it has to be to stand up to the epic amounts of sake and beer being consumed—like all the best hookers. These restaurant-bars have got a big bag of tricks too: Marinated cold dishes, tempura, yakitori, ramen and sushi. None of the dishes are expected to be perfect—you go to a specialist restaurant for that—but it all has to be savoury and satisfying.
Sadly, what you get at Mariko’s is bland tonkotsu ramen ($16), soggy oyster tempura ($25) and under salted wagyu beef yakitori ($25). Besides, there isn’t much variety. The menu lacks more interesting izakaya staples (think chicken intestines and wasabi marinated octopus), and a fun back story isn’t nearly enough to compensate for the wane, meek and castrated cuisine.
Drinks are perhaps the establishment’s one saving grace. Fresh fruity cocktails like the Zakuro ($22)—whisky, Chambord, yuzu, pomegranate and blueberry jam—are thoughtfully put together, plus the selection of Japanese sakes (from $12), whiskies (from $12) and beers (from $8) is actually pretty good.
Perhaps if sufficiently inebriated, the chow might count as passable. So if you insist on paying this lady of the night a visit, make sure you drink up—it’ll blur out her flaws.
Otherwise, this was one call girl who left us limp.