Not Your College Ramen
Creativity, Presentation, and Flavor Rule
One day last month, as I was walking downtown, I thought, “What would be good for lunch on this hot autumn day?” My answer might surprise you: an equally hot bowl of soup. In the mood for something unusual and different, I headed to Kokeshi for a bowl of noodles.
For a drink, I ordered yuzu lemonade. It is made from yuzu citruses, which have a stronger, tarter taste than lemons. They have been grown in Japan since the 7th century, when they were introduced by the Chinese. It was a flavorful, refreshing start to my meal.
After the lemonade, I had a summer roll for an appetizer. Known as Gỏi Cuốn in Vietnamese, Kokeshi’s has cucumber, carrots, cilantro, shrimp and noodles wrapped in Bánh Tráng, or rice paper. The peanut sauce on the side went well with the shrimp, and the ingredients were just as fresh as a salad. It was a nice break from the mostly deep fried egg rolls served at most other Asian restaurants. Served chilled, it was the perfect appetizer on a hot and muggy day.
The main course was a hot bowl of Vietnamese noodles. Similar to Pho, it had scallions, bean sprouts, carrots and cilantro in a chili broth. I enjoy spicy foods, but the only issue I had with the noodles was that the broth had a little too much heat. The noodles were spicy too, taking on the flavor. It was so spicy I needed another lemonade to cool off!
The one thing I think Kokeshi did best is presentation. The food was neatly and beautifully served. The best example of this was the summer roll. It was sliced in half, and complemented the stone slate it was served on. I also liked how the ingredients in the noodle soup were separate, so you could see and taste each one. The bright yellow lemonade stood out next to the neutral colors of the dishes. Overall, the meal was well-coordinated and very colorful!
Kokeshi is not a traditional Japanese restaurant. The decorations and the general atmosphere are both lively and creative. There are paper umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, and plants growing everywhere. On the wall, Japanese television plays everything from martial arts action movies to game shows. The fortune cookies are hilarious, and don’t “insert generic fortune cookie message here” (actual quote).
The menu also goes along with the unconventional theme of Kokeshi. Some of the ramen bowls have creative twists to them, adding bacon and eggs, fried chicken (the “Colonel Sanders”), and pork belly. There is also a very different beverage selection, such as sparkling matcha tea and kombucha. One thing I like best about Kokeshi is that they not only do Japanese foods, but go into other Asian foods as well, such as Vietnamese and Cambodian. This gives their menu a lot of variety.
The service at Kokeshi is both helpful and reliable. All the meals took a reasonable amount of time to get to me, and the waiter was happy to answer my questions about the menu. The staff were also cheerful, which is a very important aspect of customer service at any business. They made sure I was satisfied with my meal, and asked if I needed anything. That is important, because a restaurant needs waiters who are not only helpful, but also outgoing enough to ask the customer what they need before the customer asks them.
I had a good experience at Kokeshi. The meal was satisfying, the atmosphere was creative, and the service was excellent. If you’re looking for an original, nontraditional approach to East Asian cuisine, and have an adventurous palate, then Kokeshi is for you.