Cocolo is open for dinner only, from 6pm to midnight. After spending last week reading about David Chang’s pilgrimage down the ramen route in Tokyo in issue 1 of Lucky Peach, I had an acute craving. I got there early, at 15 minutes to 6. Not so much because I anticipated a line but because I was starving and couldn’t trust myself not to stop off somewhere and ruin my appetite (as the half eaten butter pretzel from Hofpfisterei in my handbag could attest) or fill my belly up with a liter of sweet flavoured tea from the newly opened ‘Starbucks of the east’: Comebuy. My stomach was growling as I approached Cocolo and there, hoping from one foot to another to stay warm, were three people.
I took out issue 2 of Lucky Peach, leaned against the wall and tried to steady myself with thoughts of noodles. A Japanese family of 4 arrived to join us. 5 to 6. 1 to 6. Doors open. We shuffle in. In the next 5 minutes all the seats are taken and there are people standing by the wall waiting for us to order, eat, pay and go.
I sat with my back to the front window, looking into the kitchen (which I think is the best place to sit because you can see what they are doing and are sheltered from the regular opening of the door). You do get splashed a little because on the other side of the bar is the sink in which they wash the dishes (by hand) during service (spoons go into the adjacent ceramic hand wash basin for some reason).
I had already tried the Tonkotsu (a milky looking broth made from pork bones, fat and collagen) so I ordered the Shoyu: a broth salty from soy sauce. Hrabi ordered Tan Tan, a spicy soup with minced meat and corn. We also got kimchi, gyoza and edamame. Embarrassingly, the only gyoza I’d had previous to these were at Wagamama (not that I am knocking Wagamama you understand, I would kill to have a Wagamama in Berlin! It’s fast food but it’s good fast food.), these were in a different category altogether, I would go back for the gyoza alone. The edamame came in a slated wooden box, with a sheet of paper from a Japanese magazine fashioned into a box perched on top – for discarding spent edamame shells.
Details like that get me because they are indicative of a perfectionist at work. To take the time to fashion a paper box, when any old dish would do, is rare.
There are more details and quirks. The small but deep wire noodle sieves that line the wall, the timers over the heads of cooks that are set when a new batch of noodles go in. The orders displayed on the white fridge, fastened with black magnets, because there isn’t one centimeter of space left in the kitchen, let alone a 30 cm for an order slide rack. There is only one cutting board (black) meat is sliced on it, eggs are halved. The gyoza are cooked on a grill the size of a paperback novel. The bare bulbs sport coffee filters as lamp shades, yellow with age (Hrabi spotted that one).
Cocolo is original in every way, with the line of hungry punters clamouring for your seat adding to the appeal. That’s all before you’ve tasted the broth and the alkaline noodles. Which are deliciuos of course, all those people aren’t lining up for quirky, they are lining up for good. The quirkiness is a bonus.
Next to Kuchi
No website but Berlin Unlike has a write up here