Usually when someone chases you a 100 metres down a street screaming at the top of their lungs, it is not a good thing. But for us, it was quite the opposite. Initially turned away thanks to a fully booked Friday, the waiter then sprints up to us saying that there was now an opening – our luck was turned around.
Just snuck away from Ponsonby Road, cocoro is tucked amongst a row of retail shops in a small side street, definitely tricky to find – maybe it’s just my lack of navigation skills, for it was at full capacity when we arrived. Still, Cocoro is able to retain a sophisticatedly ambient atmosphere, where equally cultured looking patrons sat sipping at their mini pots of sake while making polite conversation, possibly about the minimalist themed interior.
As if chasing us down the road wasn’t enough, we each get handed a glass of champagne as a “sorry for making you walk away then come back” apology. After that was gone, the encyclopaedia that they called a sake and wine list kept the ex-bartender alcoholic in me satisfied. In contrast, the culinary fare at cocoro was nowhere as extensive, perhaps in keeping with the minimalist theme, there were sparse few options on the a-la-carte menu. I sought to taste a wide variety of the menu from the tofu to the seafood gratin.
I don’t know what “cocoro” means in Japanese, but if I hazard a guess it means “tiny.” What all the dishes had in common was that they were all bite-sized. The tofu literally arrived on a teaspoon on a plate. The seafood gratin was demolished after two spoonfuls. With the slow cooked pork belly, I got four cubes the size of dice. Six pieces of sushi combined were probably the size of one from St Pierre’s to put things in perspective. And so it goes with all other items on the menu. Fortunately the miniscule portions of food were redeemed by the careful thought and precision put into each bite, otherwise there’d be angry mobs after bordering on the long wait. The jumbo tiger prawn filo tempura bites burst with juiciness yet maintaining a delicate crisp coating. Every piece of seafood in the gratin was so fresh; I could swear the chef went out into the ocean to catch it with his bare hands, maybe that explains the long wait. Though all in all there weren’t too many inventive, creative new flavour combinations (unlike other Japanese fusion eateries where wasabi can be found in dessert,) the menu here plays it safe- but everything hit the mark in terms of flavour and texture.
Cocoro takes traditional Japanese flavours and ingredients and applies them meticulously to contemporary NZ dining, then plates them up like pieces of minimalistic artwork. This is the place to take your girlfriend who refuses to eat carbs and at most eats a salad leaf, or anyone who has an appreciation of the finer delicacies, who doesn’t mind needing ten dishes in order to achieve the level of slightly not as hungry as before. If you can appreciate food as art, more than a belly stuffing meal, make sure you add Cocoro to your list of places to visit.
All photo cred here