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Japanese Rice Risotto with Miso, Lemongrass and Scallops

Japanese Rice Risotto with Miso, Lemongrass and Scallops

Seasonal Penne Mediterraneo

Seasonal Penne Mediterraneo

Persian Split Pea, Dried Lime and Lamb Stew

Persian Split Pea, Dried Lime and Lamb Stew

Monday, 14 February 2011

REVIEW: Cocochan, James Street W1

As yet another pan-Asian eatery joins the throngs of others that already in existence in London, I made a beeline for newly opened 'Cocochan' restaurant, tucked away behind Selfridges in the tourist-trap-restaurant-clad street leading to St Christophers Place.

At first glance, I did feel that the 2 bouncers and the guestlist girl on the door was a bit much… after all Cocochan isn't exactly Chinawhite club for heaven's sake. Inside, the PR girls hover from table to table standing over guests as they dine. It's all too much for me because all I wanted to do was sit, eat and get out.

The first table we were seated at was right next to the door with gusts of freezing wind bursting through each time the door opened. A table move found us seated at a cosy corner table that despite appearances, seemed to have an inexplicable constant vibration. The wall and floor also vibrating vigourously as if the floor beneath concealed some sort of buzzing nuclear generator. Resting my arm on the table resulted in said arm going completely numb; when I asked the staff why the table was vibrating, I was told “But it's a good vibration, no???” I politely reassured them that it was rather more of an uncomfortable, unpleasant vibration. A perfectly bizarre response to my suggestion of discomfort, I felt.

A reduced menu was the order of the day; I'm told the Chef was in New York and so they were only offering a reduced menu until next week; lucky old me, eh? The usual Pan-Asian suspects appear on the menu making it a hybrid of Hakkasan, E&O and Ping Pong all rolled into one. Duck and watermelon salad was not unpleasant, garnished with a purple edible flower (I'm thinking this kind of detail won't last very long) but the duck was tasty, chunky and not fried to death like many crispy duck salads tend to be.

Chilean Seabass and chilli bean dumplings were melt in the mouth encased in green rice pastry but with the curious addition of semi-cooked carrot replacing the chilli bean; placed not in the seabass filling itself but actually on the pastry. The ‘XO’ prawn dumplings did not deliver and had a very heavy pastry casing with a tough seafood centre. The scallop and prawn dumplings topped with tobiko fared somewhat better, but still not a patch on the delicate offerings of Hakkasan.

Our last dish of Hamachi, tobiki with a truffled mirin dressing was a bit of a disaster. There was no tobiko to be found anywhere on the plate and the truffle was a distant flavour in the background, not enough to warrant the hefty £8.75 price tag for five coin-sized slivers of Hamachi. What completely overpowered the delicate flesh of the fish was the addition of raw shards of green beans that attacked and killed off any remnant of fish/truffle flavour in your mouth and certainly weren't mentioned as part of the meal.

Overall the experience was ok… but its abundantly clear to see that they are trying way too hard already to build an air of exclusivity on site when if they could simply brush up on a couple of dishes and pay a little more attention to preparation and ingredient use, they will probably do quite well in the long term. The staff are really very nice if not a tad too over-ethusiastic (a syndrome on new eateries) but they would do good to observe the term ‘less-is-more’ at Cocochan and peel away the PR girls, bouncers and door bunnies, fix the inexplicably vibrating tables and concentrate on serving simple pan-asian fare. Because the reality is that with Ping-Pong literally across the road, the competition looks to be stiff!

Cocochan - James Street, London W1

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