By Amanda Rae | November 24, 2015 | Food & Drink
After years of travel, a trio of local chefs returns home to plant new roots.
Tuna sashimi with “uni dust.”
The name might mean “full circle,” but Maru—Aspen’s newest Japanese restaurant since July—represents a new beginning as much as a homecoming. It’s a project that 34-year-old Aspen High School alums Taylor Hale and Jonathan Sundeen and their partner, Peter Coyne, have been working toward their entire careers.
After living in the Ute City snow globe and working at Matsuhisa, Kenichi, and Pyramid Bistro; after traveling and cooking at some of the world’s leading restaurants, such as The Fat Duck, Bouchon, La Folie, and The Pearl Restaurant; after tasting their way through Japan, Malaysia, China, and Thailand, the trio is back to plant new roots in the Rockies. Located in the space where Takah Sushi thrived for more than three decades, Maru serves a fresh take on traditional Japanese fare, incorporating new flavors based on the group’s beloved taste experiences.
“The reason to open a restaurant is to cook the things I’ve learned to cook from chefs all over the world,” says Coyne, Maru’s executive chef. “A lot of infuences have inspired us to open this restaurant and do our food.”
So far, diners have been delighting in nightly specials from Coyne’s ever-evolving chef’s signature menu, which might include halibut cheeks with abalone, crispy lobster dumplings, black garlic shrimp, or Peking duck moo shu. Other popular dishes include braised octopus with seaweed salad and shiso chimichurri, and short ribs braised in gochujang, the savory, spicy, Korean-red-chili paste. From Hale’s deft hands at the sushi bar: yellowtail hamachi with grapefruit, ponzu, and serrano chile, and other artful tableaux of sashimi, all flown in fresh daily, with produce sourced from Paonia and house-made accoutrements.
Maru is also the rare restaurant to introduce Aspenites to a novel way of dining: shabu shabu (Japanese for “swish swish”), or tabletop hot pots in which diners poach their own meal of lobster, scallops, Colorado rib-eye, or Wagyu beef. At the bar, sommelier Robbie Parker showcases a menu of specialty cocktails to complement Maru’s growing list of sake, wine, and Japanese whiskey.
“We’re taking the best Japanese [dining] elements and elevating them to a whole new level,” Coyne says of the restaurant recipe that has been years in the making. “When it [all] comes together, it can be a beautiful thing.” 320 S. Mill St., 970-429-8640
PhotograPhy by C2 PhotograPhy