The hardly week-old Cocochan is an attractive and dimly lit (positively dark) new pan-Asian restaurant on James Street. And you know that final mirror-room scene in Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon? Well, a walk to the toilets kinda reminded us of a glammed up version of that. Swish!
In addition to the fancy schmancy oriental décor, the clientele reflects this restaurant's proximity to Bond Street Station and Selfridges. However, if you order with thrift in mind, Cocochan's prices don't have to remind you of its upscale locale. Of course, should you wish to splurge (we admittedly very much enjoyed our bottle of velvety Shirakabe Kimoto Junmai sake, £52 per bottle), you're in the right spot. Service is exemplary (if still perhaps getting a feel for the place), and if you get the same friendly waitress as we did, you're in good hands with respect to menu and drinks advice.
There were a few particularly delectable highlights of our invited visit but, first and foremost, the number one reason we'd contemplate a return was the starter course of soft shell crab futo maki (£7.75). It smelled gorgeous, was presented with fresh wasabi and some very tasty nori and had just the right amount of crunch. Seriously, it wowed us.
Other dishes, such as the delicate Chilean sea bass and chilli bean dumplings (£5.50 for a dim sum order), a properly meaty chargrilled lamb with (a bit too sugary) kimchee (£15.50) and Red Sea caramelized prawns with sambal (£17), were far from disappointing but didn't come near the yum factor of those maki rolls.Wok-fried mixed vegetables prepared with Shaoxing and ginger (£5.50) along with some jasmine rice (£3.25) accompanied our feast accordingly.
For puds, a cleansing and pleasing pomegranate creme brulee (£5.75) and a comforting banana cake with amaretto ice cream (£5.75) commendably exceeded our expectations. Sips from pots of jasmine green tea and 'chocolate mint truffle' tea (£3 per pot) rounded out our dinner with a pleasant tone.
In general, we were pleased with our Cocochan experience, but felt that the chef might have been holding back on spice a bit more than we'd have preferred (note: this particular Londonista likes his dishes hot!) and possibly relying on sugar (as so many London restos seem to do these days) to cater to the palates of tourists and Oxford Street shoppers. Restraint for restraint's sake or just playing safe? And are we being too nit-picky about the sugary thing? Still, that soft-shell crab rocked our world (one of the best dishes we've tried this month), and we're happy to recommend giving this newbie eatery a go.
Cocochan is located at 28 James Street, W1U 1EU. Visit the restaurant online at www.cocochan.co.uk.