The List: Cocoron NYC

October 25, 2011

 

Cocoron Soba Noodles - Photo from Serious Eats

It’s been over 8 months since I last posted about a restaurant; that post being about our meal at Eleven Madison Park, by far one of the most fantastic and lavish meals I’ve ever had in my life. So it seems awfully fitting that the latest restaurant on my List, 8 months later, gets back to my core. Cocoron, a 20 or so seat Soba noodle shop on the LES is not fancy or expensive. But I can tell you one thing, it’s friggin delicious!

Ramen noodles have become a NYC craze as of late. The perfect example was our recent attempt at Ippudo. Touted as one of the city’s best, Ippudo is packed to the gills on a regular basis. I should have known better before going but when being told there was a two and half hour wait to dine, it’s fate was sealed. I’ll probably never go back. Here’s the thing, I’m sure it is great, but two and half hours for noodles…no thanks!

But after we waited a full hour and fifteen for Cocoron, my reaction at Ippudo became a bit clearer. I think it was more the attitude of it all than the length of time. Because once we finally got four spots at Cocoron’s noodle bar (the few tables only seat two, so you can probably get a table much quicker if you are in a duo), we were treated like real guests. The waiter and waitress walked us through the menu and meal from start to finish while we marveled in the clean and fresh flavors that each dish presented.

I followed recommendations listed on my favorite food site (serious eats), and we started with the homemade silken tofu, pork and okara croquettes, and raw octopus. All three were delicious but the tofu was a perfect representation of what can happen when a few quality ingredients come together. The tofu was luscious and sweet paired perfectly with bonito, nori, scallions, and freshly grated ginger; truly wonderful.

But it was the soba dishes that really caught my attention. They come in three main ways. The “dip”  comes as fresh soba noodles next to a simmering pot of broth for self-cooking and eating. The “hot” comes as a more simplistic noodle soup and the “cold” comes with freshly cooked soba noodles ready to be doused in a chilled and flavorful sauce. My “cold” soba dish was studded with delicious pork and freshly grated mountain yam and came with a mind-blowing sesame sauce. The flavors were so clean and complimented the earthy noodles fantastically. While I only tried the broth from the other three dishes on the table, the rest of the group proclaimed more of the same. Flavor, flavor, flavor! And it’s a testament to their menu as your night continues. Because unlike a big bowl of salty ramen, a meal at Cocoron leaves you feeling healthful and satisfied.

And that comes from an attention to detail that goes beyond a typical meal out with friends. For example, when my noodles arrived before everyone elses, I waited like my mother taught me too. But the waitress informed me to eat up as the noodles were ideal at that moment and not to be left un-eaten. Luckily none of the others cared as their piping out noodle dishes came quickly thereafter. And how about the end of the meal? A note card arrives explaining the importance of Sobayu, a delicate broth they cook the noodles in. This seems strange, until you read further. Soba noodles are packed with vitamins, although some of the key ones are water-soluble ending up in the cooking liquid. The bonito broth mixed with the lingering sauce or broth is really divine.What a meal!

Cocoron means “heartwarming”. A fitting name for a great new addition to the List…


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