October 1, 2009
Organic Korean cooking is on the menu in Gaienmae
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on October 2009
Tokyo’s obsession with organic, all-natural dining finds its Korean expression at the newly opened Cosari. Located in the basement of a building a short walk from Gaienmae station, this cozy (to say the least) restaurant claims to use no additives or chemicals and only the freshest organic ingredients. And if the food is any indication, it’s working out well.
After removing our shoes at the entrance, we were impressed by cosari’s understated chic. The simple yet elegant decor—from the short round tables to the low-hanging red lights—had a modern and Aoyama-appropriate feel.
Taking our seats at a low counter lined with jars of pickled vegetables and fruits, we were given the drinks menu by a friendly, English-speaking waiter. We opted for some organic pumpkin makgeolli (¥580) and tomato shochu (¥650), both of which were pleasingly smooth and nicely complemented our various dishes.
The food menu features the expected Korean delights, all done with cosari’s trademark organic flair. The shellfish salad (¥1,150) was light and delicious, topped with an unusual, sweet Korean miso vinaigrette that perfectly suited the plump clams and slightly bitter greens. The homemade kimchi platter (¥950) was some of the best we’ve tried—a perfect mix of spices and the ideal amount of crunch. The chijimi here is also a real standout; we ordered the traditional variety with Chinese chives (¥980), an excellent balance of crispiness and doughiness. Our next dish was a first for us—a kind of Korean stir fry called dak kang jung (¥1,100). It, too, was a wonderful blend of sweet and spicy, with flavorful organic chicken and vegetables.
The last dish, bulgogi with glass noodles (¥2,200), was also excellent. Again, the organic beef and vegetables were fresh and vibrant, and the dish didn’t have the oiliness common in other versions we’ve tried. We were unrepentant in drinking down the sweet, meaty broth.
The noise at Cosari tended to be overwhelming after a while; the drunker people got, the louder it became. This is due in part to the tiny space—there are only a handful of small tables (all with low stool seating) and a few stools at the counter—but also due to the “local haunt” feel. Indeed, our waiter, who was featured prominently on the walls with pictures and autographs of various J-pop celebs and sports figures, flitted from table to table, often taking a seat and chatting with patrons.
While the prices at Cosari are a bit steeper than at other Korean places around Tokyo, the food quality far outweighs the cost—and, after all, this is Aoyama. For chijimi that’s as fresh and perfectly balanced as the one we had here, we would happily pay the extra few hundred yen again. It seems organic Korean may prove to be a popular new kid on the Tokyo culinary block.