Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cocoron Review

For something fun and different, go to Cocoron. But don't go with more than one other person. Cocoron is a tiny soba noodle restaurant on the Lower East Side. By tiny, I mean there are only three two-person tables and a few seats at the kitchen bar. The first time I tried to eat here, the restaurant had run out of noodles. Cocoron feels authentically Japanese, yet the server is happy to explain how things work here.

We started with the daikon mochi, a pan-fried sticky rice cake made with daikon radish, bacon and baby shrimp with yuzu pepper. You'd do well to follow this lead. It's a glutinous patty, but with every bite you can taste the bacon and the shrimp. The mochi comes with a side of freshly grated daikon, which is just a bit spicy. If you've ever eaten dim sum, this is similar to the fried turnip cake.

The pork and okara croquettes are small, but well worth trying. They are fried balls of pork, potato, carrot, onion and okara, which is a soy pulp. They're wonderful bites that your mouth will treasure.

There are several options for the soba — you can get it cold or warm (making it a good option for winter or summer) or you can order a dip soba. Most come in small or large sizes — we ordered large soups since they were mostly only $1 different. We got a warm stamina soba, a soup with the buckwheat noodles, slices of pork and a couple of chicken meatballs. There weren't many meatballs, but there was lots of pork and there's not much to dislike about this salty broth.

My dining companion and I also decided to try a yuba dip soba. The broth comes in a bowl under which the waiter lights a fire. You are then instructed to dip the soba noodles in the broth for 10 to 12 seconds and the yuba, or tofu skin, and the greens for 15 seconds. If "cooking" your own food isn't your thing, then you won't like the dip soba. But it allows you time to savor the food and enjoy the experience along with the food. This soup is slightly saltier and milkier than the stamina soba broth. The menu tells you not to drink that broth; at the end of the meal, you'll be given a pot of hot water to add to the broth so that you can dilute it and actually drink it as a soup.

Desserts are specials written on a white board. My dining companion and I settled on the black sesame cheesecake. It was deliciously creamy with a slightly nutty flavor. But it was a tiny wedge for $5. I wish there had been more.

Be aware that Cocoron is cash only, but given the reasonable prices (nothing is more than $15) it's not too much of a problem. So get to an ATM and head to Cocoron for a warm, homey meal.

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