Monday, October 22, 2012

Lunch | Cocoron Soba

In the spirit of our noodle outings together, Debra and I thought Cocoron Soba would be a great choice for our next undertaking. So this past Sunday, Debra, Marcus, and I headed to Cocoron Soba's original location in the Lower East Side on Delancey (note the new location is on Kenmare between Mott and Elizabeth). We made sure to arrive around noon, i.e., when the restaurant opens, as I've been warned by many friends and reviews that waits can get crazy.

As you can tell from the shots above, cocoron is Japanese for "heartwarming," and as such, Cocoron Soba is "dedicated to preparing health-conscious and 'heartwarming' Japanese home cooking, starting with the staple soba."

Owner Yoshihito Kida opened Cocoron Soba "to share his love and passion for soba, as he wisely and firmly says, 'Through soba, I want people to discover that being healthy isn't an alternative to taste. In the U.S., the concept of healthy is almost like a choice or a sacrifice you have to make, but in Japan, health and taste somehow co-exist dtogether, and I want to deliver that through [my restaurant]." In fact, its tagline is cocoron, where hearty meets healthy.

{1,5} The restaurant's space is quite small, where guests can sit pretty comfortably in stools at the noodle counter or in a few tables surrounding it. It is quite incredible how the chefs at Cocoron Soba manage to cook up some amazing things with such a small, confined kitchen area. {2} The menu offers an wide variety of sobas, both warm and cold. We opted for something warm as the chill in the fall air was pretty brusque that afternoon. {4} To start, I had a soba buckwheat barley tea which brewed inside a stone ceramic cup from a tiny weaved basket-like strainer. It was quite fragrant yet enjoyably bold (but not overpowering) upon sipping. {5} Even Debra's ice water came in a cute hammered copper cup!

All of our noodles came out piping hot, right off the stove, which explains the steamy and foggy photographs above. {3} Debra chose the stamina soba with sliced pork and scallions. It was basically soba noodles with sliced pork and scallions inside Cocoron's signature broth. Though simple in ingredients, the broth made the entire bowl super flavorful and rich. {2} I had the sansai soba with bamboo shoots, flowering fern, woodear mushrooms, scallions, deep-fried tempura batter, and kitsune (i.e., simmered, deep-fried tofu). I have been on a crazy bamboo kick lately (probably making up for all the times during my youth and adolescence picking them out of my food and discarding them), so I just had to try it (plus the woodear mushrooms were another plus). I normally don't drink the broth after consuming all of the noodles and accompanying ingredients, but to Debra's bewilderment, there I was slurping away, not getting enough of the awesomeness that was Cocoron's broth. I saw one of the chefs dump in a good amount of chicken bones into a large stockpot full of water, and immediately I knew the secret to the broth's rich flavors. In hindsight, I wish I had ordered an extra topping of sliced pork. While I enjoyed the clean, vegetable-centric aspect of the sansai, I still felt like I need a little heartier protein mixed in. Next time!

{1} Marcus went with the Japanese-style curry soba with sliced pork and scallions, which seems to be the heartiest of all the warm soba noodle soups. It is essentially the stamina soba that Debra had, only with some spiced Japanese curry mixed in. I had a spoonful of his broth and was totally blown away by the depth of intensity it had to offer. While it wasn't unbelievably spicy, it still had a decent punch to it. If you want to bare witness to the most distinctive soba here at Cocoron, I think this would be your best bet.

Findings: Cocoron Soba was indeed a heartwarming treat (ha-ha-ha) for us. The soup base for the soba captured the restaurant's mission in the soup's every drop -- it was hearty in flavor with a clean clarity to the healthy broth. The buckwheat soba was cooked perfectly in each of our bowls, and the accoutrement -- protein and veggies -- were perfect, too. This tiny little noodle joint has lots of delicous things promised in its bowls of soba, either cold or warm and is certainly worth a detour! Just be wary crowds during prime eating hours, so try to get here when it opens. Chances are, you'll get your choice of table or seat at the counter, and will shortly be entranced by the magical broth and musical soba.

Price point: $10-13.50 for each bowl of warm soba.

--October 21, 2012

Cocoron Soba
61 Delancey Street
New York, NY 10002


  1. To be honest, although I liked the way that the copper cup looked, I felt like it made the water taste odd.



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