As per Japan, you walk down a normal, trendy shopping street filled with families, couples, and friends. Move one street over, and you’re in a sketchy red-light area. My Kitchen Cocco is a stop right smack dab there in a teeny alley between such two streets, right off of the west end of Orion-Doori. My work supervisor kindly invited me out to dinner with her husband, and honestly, seeing the address of where this was located as I wandered around looking for the correct tiny alley, my initial thoughts were “…where is she taking me…” but not to worry, the actual restaurant is anything but sketchy.
You walk in to the tiny 1 room restaurant on the 2nd floor of the building, take off your shoes, slip into some slippers, and are immediately greeted by the restaurant Mama, an amazing one-woman show manning the bar (the only place to sit, as it actually only fits about 8 or so people at a time) and preparing all the food laid out before you–which she had made all from scratch beforehand. She has about 15-20 dishes, including seafood salad, meat lasagna, ham and potato quiche, stir-fried goya, hijiki salad, steamed clams, abura-age, a summer vegetable medley, roasted mackerel pike, salisbury steak, and pickled cucumers. You let Mama know which dishes you want, and she prepares them for you right at the bar. Mostly this just means she protions them out onto plates to give you, but there are some she heats up as necessary, and some which she makes then as they are not actually in front of you, but on the menu (all Japanese) right behind you. It is all very much homestyle Japanese cooking, and talking with the friendly Mama socialite makes you feel right at home. I will also add that she is the biological mother of someone quite famous in Japan, but I was told to keep these details on the down-low, so sorry for just giving the bait and letting you hang there with it.
I ordered a yuzu liquer soda, which tastes fabulous in the summer, nice and crisp–although today was actually in the low 70s, a strange and sudden 20 degree drop from the past week–but I imagine it would be even more fabulous in the heat. I ordered the clams, summer vegetable medley, and abura-age. It was all very fresh and simple. The vegetables were the best, consisting of cooked eggplant, red and yellow bell pepper, sprouts, and very thinly sliced onion in a light soy sauce broth. The clams were simple, steamed in sake, cooled, and topped with green onion. The abura-age was a bit too salty and crispy for me, but there’s bound to be something that doesn’t fit everyone’s pallet.
My supervisor kept telling me to eat and drink more, so I ordered an apple liquer mixed with soda, which was nice and sweet, but not quite as good as the yuzu drink (I later ordered one more of those). I also ordered the hijiki salad, which was mixed with sliced konnyaku and carrots. It was good, nothing to rave about, but I also guess hijiki salad is one of those things that’s a good staple but hard to blow your mind.
As dessert, Mama gave us each a small piece of sake cake, made from Dassai sake, which is apparently very high quality. I’m not normally a fan of Japanese sponge cake (I tend to think it has no flavor), but the sake in it works extremely well, and it was a nice, light cap to the end of the meal.
To end, I would highly recommend going to this restaurant at least once, especially if you’re new to Japan, since you can try some real homestyle cooking and talk with the friendly Mama-san. I wouldn’t call it mindblowing, but it’s very friendly and open, and the food is good. Just note that since the restaurant can only fit a handful of people, avoid going with large groups, unless you book with her in advance. Even if you have a small group, make sure you either go at an early enough time or make a reservation.
My Kitchen Cocco
江野町４ー10 STAND BLDG ２F
This dog-loving former Tochigi CIR hails from its sister-state of Indiana and loves traveling the world and eating everything. She graduated after completing a thesis discussing the links between human trafficking and idol culture, and now works in Tokyo for an international human rights NGO.