Coco Ramen, a Newton Centre restaurant that opened in September, brings Japanese cuisine and a homely atmosphere to a neighborhood with few competitors. For Mukesh Gupta, a customer at the restaurant on a rainy November night, the food let his family explore a new cuisine, he said.
“We just wanted to try the ramen noodles,” Gupta said. “You know, we never tried it before. We like a lot of Thai food and all you know, but we never tried any kind of Japanese cuisine. I wanted to introduce the kids to some kind of a different cuisine as well.”
The restaurant, located on Beacon Street and wedged between Sycamore Street and SushiCo, is a hole-in-the-wall place. Red lanterns hang from the ceiling, and a Japanese mural blankets one of the walls. Five or six tables are packed tightly in the small dining room. The restaurant gives customers fun plastic ladles to dig into the large ramen servings.
The menu is down to earth as well. Just a front and a back, the restaurant advertises only six ramens ranging from $12.50 to $14.50 before any add-ons. The restaurant serves three appetizers: a pork bun, fried oysters, and Japanese deep fried chicken, all priced under $7.
The spicy miso ramen, a trademark bowl at restaurants throughout the Boston area, tasted more balanced than others. Fresh bean sprouts, wood ear mushroom, and bamboo shoots counter tongue-numbing chili spice. Luckily, the spice is not too intense, and customers can easily gobble up the whole bowl.
One customer had the clear shoyu ramen and said he enjoyed it. The ramen showcases a lighter broth and seaweed. Customers can top it with chicken breast or pork chashu—a smokier, more flavorful cut of meat than normally expected at ramen restaurants.
“It was well balanced,” he said. “It had a generous helping of ingredients. It felt fresh. And it felt homemade.”
Gupta chose Coco Ramen after spotting its strong reviews, he said.
“We were looking at another restaurant … somewhere in Brookline,” he said. “But then I saw the reviews and reviews were good.”
Gupta said he had his first ever bowl of ramen at the restaurant.
“I liked it because I haven’t had the ramens before,” Gupta said. “And the food was good. The presentation was nice. For [the kids], it was a little different taste. So it was like, they’re still acquiring it, but not much.”
The service matched the food quality, Gupta said.
“The service was good, meaning that there wasn’t very much rush so I didn’t see any problems,” he said. “But the server was good. You know, he came and greeted us wisely. [He]understood … the first time what we wanted. He advised us properly.”
Gupta said he would return to Coco Ramen.
“Looking at this vicinity, definitely it looks like the ambience is nice, the location is nice,” he said. “If the food continues to be like this, and with the good service, I’m sure, you know, it’s going to be a good one.”
Images by Victor Stefanescu / Heights Editor