I don’t usually go out for soba since I make soba bibimguksu (비빔국수; spicy, cold noodles mixed with various vegetables, including kimchi) quite often at home. Sure, the noodles aren’t homemade, but it’s still pretty damn good. However, for lazy days when I just want to slurp with no fuss, I’ve become fond of Cocoron, the new soba joint run by the husband and wife team (Yoshihito Kida and Mika Ohie, respectively) who met working at Soba Totto. The buckwheat noodles are made in-house daily, but more than the noodles, I like Cocoron for the interesting toppings.
Servings are small at Cocoron, so I would recommend an appetizer to start. The Zaru Tofu or homemade silky tofu ($5) — a block of tofu, more creamy than silky, served with shredded seaweed, scallions, ginger, bonito flakes, and soy sauce on the side — is a fine one to pick. Don’t go crazy with the soy sauce though as it’ll overpower the delicate flavor of the tofu.
Speaking of bibimguksu, Cocoron’s Kimchee Soba ($10) is basically bibimguksu, but less spicy and sweet. If you find Korean bibimguksu a little too spicy and intense, you’ll like Cocoron’s rendition.
I prefer the Korean version, of course, but I do like the barely poached egg served on the side. Mixed into the noodles, the yolk adds creaminess and body. I’ll be stealing this idea for my bibimguksu meals at home.
On the side, the soba comes with tsuyu (dipping sauce), an egg, wasabi, and a small bowl of roasted sesame seeds with a pestle so you can pound the seeds to your desired level of fineness. A bowl of pre-crushed sesame seeds would suffice, but a pestle makes it more fun. If you don’t find grinding sesame seeds fun (party-pooper), just throw in the sesame seeds whole along with the egg, wasabi, and tsuyu.
The natto soba, however, is really tasty not so much because of the fun sesame seeds, but the nose-clearing wasabi that cuts the earthiness of the natto. But, be forewarned, this is coming from a person that really loves natto. If you’ve never had natto, you may find it funky and stinky, even though I personally find the natto at Cocoron mild. The gooey threads that latch onto your chopsticks from the viscous natto may also creep you out, but for me it’s just a minor annoyance. Eat quickly and the delicious problem will disappear.
At Cocoron, like at other soba houses in New York, when you’re done, your server will come by with a pot of soba-yu, hot water in which the noodles were cooked. However, unlike other restaurants, the server at Cocoron will espouse the virtues of the starchy liquid. It seems soba-yu is rich with vitamin B. Whether you care about vitamins or not, pour it into your bowl, add some leftover tsuyu, and drink it. It’ll warm up your stomach after all the cold soba.
Besides cold soba, Cocoron also has warm soba and tsukemen (dipping-style) soba. I’ll be exploring that section of the menu in the coming months. The summer should bring many lazy days, my lazy days of soba.