Marulilu Cafe on West Broadway and Cambie, Vancouver

This all started with my quest to find out about Royal Milk Tea and it ended up me learning a thing or two about Japanese breakfasts.

I also ended up acquiring a taste for … listen to this … NATTO!


It was about a month ago when it suddenly occurred to me that there are a lot, I mean A LOT, of food blogs out there. Many of them are new and I was no where near keeping track of who is who. That was what set me down the path of creating the mother of all blogrolls for Vancouver area food blogs. I have 93 blogs listed so far and I am sure there are even more out there.

So during the past few weeks, I paid a bit more attention to what’s out there. I came across a few blogs I had never heard of before and they are really good and well written ones. One of the blog is called My Munchie Box. It was in the My Munchie Box’s very first post I came across the mention of the Royal Milk Tea.

Royal Milk Tea? Interesting. For some reason, that kept ringing in my head. I kind of got obsessed on find out about it. I googled it and got lots of confusing answers. There were no entries on Wikipedia.

So I turned to chowhound. I thought that someone on chowhound would know. I posted this question on chowhound … and indeed, someone DID actually know where I could get to try Royal Milk Tea.

Smarty-pants! 🙂


And before I knew it, the name Marulilu started popping up on several food blogs too. It was on foodology, famished foodies and la patite vancouver.

It made me want to alter my dine out priorities to check out the Marulilu Cafe. And that was what I did. Suanne and I went for breakfast at Marulilu with a specific mission to:

  • try Royal Milk Tea
  • have a traditional Japanese breakfast, and
  • learn to love Natto

Marulilu is located on Broadway, in Vancouver and near intersection with Cambie. It is just across the street from the Broadway-City Hall train station as a matter of fact.

Easy to locate. It is simple … white washed outside with the words Marulilu Cafe. There are metered street parking but since we were there on a weekend, there were lots of spots.


They have quite a selection here. Besides the Japanese options, they also have good old Canadian breakfast. We ignored those. Our mind were already set on what we wanted. Yeah, you can click on the pix above to blow it up larger.

Don’t know about you but I just can’t read menus like those above. I can stare at that for a whole minute and yet I don’t really know what I am reading, much less what I want.


It’s a small restaurant. Seats about 22 people at max. The place does look like it started off very nice and organized and over time it began to be rather disorganized.

For someone who is a stickler for “a place for everything and everything in its place”, the boxes of supplies stacked at a corner, spilled sugar on the counter, strew newspapers and those sort of things jumps out at me. It kind of bother me … and no … I know it is NOT important. It’s just me and I am just saying.

I can see it is because they are understaffed. The two waitresses were very sweet and polite — very typical of Japanese hospitality. But I can also see that they are frazzled trying to keep up.

Understandably too it is a limited table service setup. You walk up to the counter, make your order, pay at the counter and then the food gets served at the table. So, yeah … service was kind of slow. It took a while for the food to come but it was not a problem for us. We have lots of time on our hand.


Our first order was very simple. It has to be Japanese style breakfast which is $8.49.

So I did my research before I came to Marulilu. I learned that Japanese breakfasts consists of two very important item — the rice and the miso soup. I read somewhere (can’t remember the link now) that traditionally the rice is to be presented on the left and the miso on the right. Is there any truth to that?

Yeah, it just happen that they serve it that way to us. A coincidence?

And of course there is the NATTO, a common delicacy for breakfast. Marulilu gives their customer a choice of natto or tofu because they know that not many people will like natto. They did ask me if I wanted natto or tofu — with indignation in my voice, I said “natto please”.

There are other items common on the Japanese style breakfast I read about and it is the presence of … grilled salmon and plain omelette.


The plain omelette is just plain. I am not expecting anything fancy actually.

And the grilled salmon is dry.


The nikuyaga is served on the side. It is some kind of potato dish which is sweetish. I like this a lot.


The miso soup is well, miso soup.

I saved “the best” (natto) for last.

Say, what kind of a eater are you? Do you eat the best stuff on a plate first … or do you eat the unexciting items first, leaving the best for last?

I am the type who will leave the best for last.


For drinks, Suanne had Matcha which is $4.55 for a 16oz cup. Yeah, the green one on the left.

Suanne mentioned that it was not at all sweet but that it was just sweetened by the milk. She must have sugar with her morning beverage but she did not add any sugar lest she ruins “The Matcha”.


Me, Ben, had the Royal Milk Tea … also 16oz and costs $3.50.

Hey it was just a tea bag. I could have made this at home. 🙂

The waitress told me this could be served hot or cold and asked me how I wanted it. I don’t know. I asked her how does the Japanese traditionally serve this. She said sometimes they serve this hot and sometimes they serve this cold. Fine. I then asked her how many percent of their customers have this hot or cold? She said half go for hot and the rest go for cold.

I guess I would never find out from her and so I just ordered it hot.

It was nice, it is frothy and has a floral fragrance to it. Yeah, I could drink this again next time but seriously, I felt it was too frothy and that I think half the cup was all froth.


Suanne had the Okonomi Yaki which is $7. It is a really big serving. Certainly it is too big for breakfast.


Okonomiyaki is not normally this thick, is it not?

This one is like 2 cm thick and very doughy. So we did not quite find this very nice, to tell the truth. I guess this is just one of several variants of okonomiyaki.


Suanne was already giggling as I took a deep breath after I had finished off all the other items on the Japanese Style Breakfast. The last and the best was the natto.

I had bought natto to try once before. Not too long ago. I got it from the Japanese store and they all come in little Styrofoam boxes. I tried it once and I hated it. It was awful. I asked my Japanese friend afterwards about it and they said I should add in “other stuff” to sort of even out the nastiness.

Oh boy, am I glad to see that there are “other stuff” served with the natto. The “other stuff” are chopped onion, mustard, sesame oil and soya sauce.


I took a deep breath. Peeled the plastic cover.

Yeah, it smell just as bad as I remembered it.

And the sticky gooey thingy still looks as disgusting.

This is after all rotten soybeans but in order to meet the local health codes, they call it fermented soybeans.


As I was stirring it in the bowl supplied, it made even more sticky strings … it made it even more unappetizing.

And the smell, it got a bit more unpleasant too.

While Suanne continues to giggle, I was thinking how anything like this could end up being a delicacy. It is one of the mysteries in life I will never figure out.

Suanne reminded me that she did not order this and that it is I who ordered this. Yeah, she was telling me don’t pester her to try this too.


Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls … I would like to report that as bad as it looked initially and as awful as it smell, once I put in the “other stuff”, it did not look quite as bad after all.

And it did not smell quite as bad too.

And it did not taste quite as awful too.

Actually, it was quite alright. The first bite was the hardest but every subsequent ones gets better.

Mind you, I am not saying this is the most delicious food I had ever tried. It is NOT by any stretch of imagination.

It is just that I managed to finish half of it which, to me, is a yardstick that says I have finally acquired the taste for natto.

Moreover, I managed to cox Suanne to try ONE bean.


It was an interesting breakfast. Nothing stellar but if you have never tried having an authentic Japanese breakfast before, I guess Marulilu is a good place to try.

Excuse me while I go look for a pin to fasten the NATTO badge on my foodie sash.

Marulilu Cafe on Urbanspoon

This Post Has 0 Comments

  1. souggy

    Natto was disgusting the first time I tried it… person suggested mixing it with what she called “egg rice” which was parcooked egg yolk mixed in with hot steamed rice. Balut I can eat on a daily basis if offered, but natto? I haven’t figured out how to make it taste decent.

    I will have to give the green onions, mustard, soy sauce and sesame oil a try.

  2. tpiggy

    Kudos to you for trying the natto! I like adding some kimchi in my natto. A sprinkle of shichimi powder is nice, too.

    I wish they could serve old-fashioned ‘tamagoyaki’ for the Japanese breakfast combo instead of the kinda-sad-looking plain omelette.

    Also I thought the combo could use some vegetable – something green, either saide salad with Japanese style dressing or even a small dish of ‘tsukemono’.

  3. Mike

    interesting how the Okonomiyaki is so doughy i remeber making it with some japanese friend and also eating at other places that make it and its all start with a base of shredded cabbage and abater made from potatoe flour to hold it together but i think the thickness depends on the surface u make it on the smaller the surface the thicker the large teh thinner it can be

  4. Travis

    I love the royal milk tea in the bottle with blue writing like this:
    You can get it in some stores in Richmond.
    You never said what the definition is. I remember when I looked it up I found that it’s when the tea is brewed in milk instead of water.

    I’ve never seen such doughy okonomiyaki and that’s definitely on the thick side.

    I always heard that natto is one of the more challenging foods to eat, but once I had it I didn’t think it was too bad. The way you had it, with green onions and soy and stir it a lot tastes pretty good. Somehow I get a coffee flavor from it.

    Thanks for a nice post.

  5. Elaine

    I will never eat these kind of things hahaha…natto, durian, stinky tofu…etc.

  6. Crispy Lechon

    Ben, now you’re ready for dinuguan on Nov 135h. 🙂

    1. Ben

      Bring it on, Crispy, bring it on! Oh … get Elaine to try it too.

      1. Kevin

        I had dinuguan in Manila this summer…was yummy!

        1. Crispy Lechon

          As fmed would say, without pictures it didn’t happen. Waiting for your blog posts on your Asian trip last summer. 🙂

          1. Ben

            I am very concerned about your habit of seeking food porn, Crispy. You and I need to sit down and talk … mano-a-mano. LOL!

          2. Crispy Lechon

            Yes, I think I need to seek professional help. 🙁

          3. Buddha Girl

            Uh-oh…I should have Buddha Boy join in…he needs therapy too…hahahaha!

      2. Elaine

        Hahaha I googled it Ben. I eat pig blood though! And I don’t remember it tasting or smelling weird o_O

  7. Vivian L

    Hi, I read your blog daily but first time posting =)

    The Japanese usually mix the natto (and green onion, soy sauce and mustard) in the rice and eat it. I’ve actually had natto okonomiyaki in Japan since one of my Japanese friend ordered it… However, I still haven’t acquired a taste for natto lol

  8. Wendy

    Natto is really good with rice and negitoro!

  9. Chubbypanda

    I love natto. The Japanese breakfast, on the other hand, looked kind of sad. Poor Ben.

  10. CK

    Hi there! Delurking to say that I lived in Japan for a few years and never had the “guts” to try natto. I got scared when my other foreign coworkers tell me they are rotten beans. Um.. I wouldn’t say the Japanese breakfast you had is authentic. It looks very westernized to me.

    If you are interested in learning more about authentic Japanese cuisine, I recommend this blog, though you may already know about it. Amy, a Canadian who married a Japanese, writes a fabulous blog about her (food) adventures in Japan. Her pictures are really nice too!

  11. Pinoy Gourmet

    Yes We will defenitely have Dinuguan as well as Pig Head stew Paksiw style,you will earn lots of badges that night 🙂

  12. joyce

    Hey Ben!

    I’m glad you finally found a place in vancouver that has royal milk tea! I will definitely have to try marulilu cafe and see if their royal milk tea is any good :)!

  13. jer

    I’m very open to food but Natto is still on my list of things I really don’t enjoy. My friend also told me after you add the condiments to it, it doesn’t taste quite as bad as before. It’s true but I still think it tastes pretty bad. Mixing it with raw egg is probably the easiest and best tasting way of eating it in my opinion. I also found the brand of Natto is very important as the tastes differ between them.

    Also, a small correction to one of the items in your pictures. I believe its “nikujaga” rather than “nikuyaga”. The translation literally means meat-potatoes.

  14. Buddha Girl

    WOW! That’s quite a deluxe Japanese breakfast you had there.

    I once dated a Japanese guys who’s parents were very traditional (they renovated their house so they could have tatami all over…here…in Vancouver…OMG)…anyhow, every morning, their maid/butler made very simple breakfast…just rice with tea, with those sprinkle stuff (can’t remember what’s it called)…but I don’t recall they had miso soup…or natto…

    And yes, rice is on the left and the miso soup is on the right…if the bowl has a lid, to be proper, you need to use the appropriate hand to open the lid and place it on the appropriate side…

    Just like Chinese table manners/courtesies…lots of little stuff…hahahah!

  15. famished foodies

    Thanks for the mention! We’re famished foodies with an “s”

    1. Ben

      Fixed … it is now famished foodies.

  16. Kirk

    Hey Ben – I’m glad you got a chance to try natto…. but it is usally mixed along with green onions with the rice. I think they could have done a better job of presenting natto than just giving you the supermarket styrofoam container….that’s very lazy, and really irritates the Japanese in me. that’s like giving you a bowl of hot water and an instant ramen package. In our household, it always was rice on the left, miso shiro on the right.

    1. Ben

      Hey Kirk. Is there a reason why that the rice is always on the left and the miso on the right? The only reason I can guess is that it is culturally correct to always carry the bowl with the left hand and the chopsticks with the right, regardless if one is right or left handed. I remember when I was young, I see mums rapping their kids hands if they use their left hands instead of the right. Ben

  17. El Kamino

    Great to read about NATTO! I LOVE IT! Some facts about natto: It’s probably one of the healthiest foods out there and good for the brain. Many people from the Osaka area don’t eat it but Tokyo folks love it. It goes best with hot steamed rice but can be eaten with daikon, tuna sashimi, in maki rolls or straight-up.
    I’ve searched every restaurant in Vancouver that I’ve been to and most don’t have it or they use the other chopped up type which doesn’t have the same taste.
    The best places I’ve found is Tenhachi’s natto breakfast, and natto maki rolls at Kibune in Kits, Kilala in Burnaby or Ajisai in Kerrisdale.

  18. Winnie

    I had traditional japanese breakfast in Japan made by my brother-in-law. It had nicely grilled salmon, miso soup, rice, tamagoyaki (that I bought from a shop in Tsukiji the day before) and seaweed. But I think he skipped natto cos he thinks I may not like it.
    I also had not so trandition one made at a guesthouse in Oji by the host and his wife. It’s very tasty and beautifully presented but didn’t have natto as well.
    I had natto sushi roll before and didn’t remeber liking it… but dry natto snack I got from Kyoto was good!

    1. Winnie

      replying to myself. But I just some natto from fujiya and I am going to try some natto on rice tomorrow morning. ammm got some daikon too so I will make a miso soup as well. Will report back if I end up eating it or not…

      1. Ben

        Way to go, Winnie! Yeah, tell us all about your experience with Natto. I think if you eat it just like that, you might not like it. Better consider adding “other stuff” like eggs, soya sauce and such. Good luck. Ben

  19. Jessica

    I heard spreading natto on bread made with soymilk tastes delicious because they are both soybean based.

  20. rachel

    hi Ben,
    Is royal milk tea similar to London fog?

Leave a Reply