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Cocoro East Japanese Restaurant

View Map668 N. Wells St., Chicago
Tel: (312) 943-2220
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Editorial Review of Cocoro East Japanese Restaurant

On a stretch of Wells best known for the big, brash and in-your-face (think Ed Debevic's and Hooters), there lies the small, quiet and sublime CoCoRo. This beautiful spot is the only place in town serving shabu-shabu, Japanese-style fondue. Forget any preconceived notion of fondue entailing chocolate or cheese; this is miles away from the Swiss Alps. A plate piled high with thinly sliced beef, a variety of vegetables and noodles is cooked in a pot of water, seaweed and salt warmed on a tabletop burner. The good people at Cocoro will get things started and give a little tutorial in the easy art of shabu-shabu. The vegetables blanche quickly and taste amazing with the vinegar sauce, and the beef comes out wonderfully tender before taking a dive in the sesame sauce. Served with a salad, rice and a dessert of fresh fruit, the shabu-shabu costs $24 per person.

The CoCoRo menu features plenty of other options, including several ramen and udon dishes running $9 to $11 and a number of teriyaki and tempura bento boxes priced between $15.50 and $21.50. There is also an extensive sushi menu featuring some of the freshest catches in town served in both traditional and innovative combinations. The beautiful server sweetly cautioned against the natto roll, made with the Japanese delicacy of very sticky fermented soybeans. She said that most Americans find it really stinky, but she also told us that she eats some daily and that it keeps her skin looking young. Then she told us her age. Nevermind botox, eat the natto roll!

Cocoro offers a good variety of hot and cold sake, a few Japanese and domestic beers, and a short wine list including yummy Japanese plum wine. The solo businessman at the sushi bar, the Japanese family of six and the obvious first date couple giggling over their interactive meal all enjoyed themselves and their food; chances are you will, too.

Average cost: $10-$20

Centerstage Reviewer: Roni Shapira

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lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner: 5:30-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday

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