Monday, April 18, 2011

Cocoro's Tonkotsu Ramen & Gyoza combo

Japanese ramen & curry are among the Bobcat's top favorite things. Even though Chicago's winters are bitter & long, we surprisingly do not have any ramen-specialty shops (except Mitsuwa). However, we did notice an increase in ramen option at Japanese restaurants. So far, nothing has been spectacular, but anything is better than nothing.

Since the Bobcat's originally from Fukuoka (Kyushu), our favorite is naturally the least healthy/most flavorful of them all -- tonkotsu (pork-bone based). When done well, the milky, sticky, intense flavor coats each chewy strand of noodle, delivering an unforgettable umami flavor.

We were ecstatic when the owner of Cocoro told us about their tonkotsu ramen. The master chef prepares a huge pot of bones & cooks it down on a weekly basis for several days. Each batch produces only 30 bowls, so they're often out of ramen by Saturday night (we've already been rejected once..)
For the Bobcat's birthday, we took last Friday off, and called Cocoro to make sure they had ramen available. They start serving it every Friday, so we had one of the first batch:

This is definitely a lighter version of tonkotsu ramen, flavor isn't nearly as intense. The longer they cook down the broth, the I wonder if a later batch would be different (although we risk not getting served ANY at all). Anyway, it's still a good bowl of soup we'd go back for. The chashu (pork) was very good.. perfect balance of fatty & lean, nice & tender.

Ramen goes with gyoza like sushi with miso soup, or grilled cheese sandwich & tomato soup (even though I've never actually had that). These gyoza felt freshly made, perfectly crisp & juicy:
No matter what, we feel blessed to be able to get tonkotsu ramen in Chicago. Hopefully these izakaya & ramen trends will pick up more & really spread through the Chicagoland area...

Cocoro Restaurant
668 N Wells St., Chicago, IL

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