Swanky interiors, fancy decor... and a copycat menu.
With the opening of Cocochan, the Pan Asian game in Karachi has got a bit more saturated with another iteration of a recycled menu in an aesthetically wonderful setting.
Although there isn’t a strict definition for ‘Pan Asian’, the term is meant to encompass cuisine stretching from the Andaman Sea in the West, covering all of Mainland China, and extending to Mount Fuji in the East. Thousands of years, and miles, of culinary evolution locked up in two words.
Cocochan, instead of experimenting with endless permutations of Pan Asian cuisine, played it safe, and took inspiration from already existing Pan Asian menus in the city. The menu is full of the usual suspects, just to ensure you're not taken by surprise and can always count on that Pad Thai or Crispy Beef, among other old faithful meals.
Cocochan has secured a prime spot on the famous Tipu Sultan Road, which is turning into quite the food street.
The eatery is open from 1pm till midnight on weekdays and 1am on weekends.
It's always heartening to see an increasing number of places serving sushi, which was essentially a duopoly for the longest time in Karachi. Cocochan serves an expansive sushi menu, which doesn’t cost a fortune and a half, if dined with a view of the city’s skyline.
The Nigiri is just about right, with thumb length rice pillows, underneath raw fish. The rice was just warm enough, each grain letting go of the next one with just a shrug.
The California Maki was its versatile cylindrical self, although it could have packed more flavour, and some texture in it.
Cocochan is also one of the few places having an all-you-can-eat-sushi night every Monday – in case you are looking drown away those Monday blues with a sushi and tempura binge.
Stuffed Portobello mushrooms with mozzarella and coconut curry glaze is a winner on the menu. It’s the classic Portobello mushrooms, loaded with that oozy mozzarella and a bit of coconut curry for that Asian zing. It is one of the simpler, yet finer listings on the menu.
Prawn Shumai was the usual standard shumai served everywhere else in the city. A shumai should ideally collapse in your mouth, with the juices carefully encapsulated in the shumai doing their magic. The shumai were devoid of any magic here.
Staying conservative for the main course, the Pad Thai was a ketchup-y treat (not). A Pad Thai is a very basic dish. It ought to be light bodied, and a bit dry, with a complex yet balanced flavour.
The Pad Thai’s primary flavour at Cocochan was tomato ketchup while the Thai Green Curry lacked the aromatic notes, the kick, or the punch, and was just flat. A green curry’s backbone are the chillies, a bit of salt through fish sauce or maybe shrimp paste, and aromatics through galangal and lemongrass. The curry served at Cocochan was devoid of character, or aromatics, and was more of a bland affair. The least a copycat menu can do is to elevate flavour profiles.
The dessert menu is pretty simple. Tempura and Lotus ice creams provide some respite for those with a sweet tooth. Despite the growth of Pan Asian eateries in the city, no restaurant has been able to move beyond ice cream. There's a variety of desserts in the region up for consideration; someone ought to take the risk, so that everyone else can start copying it!
Back of envelope calculations suggest that almost 80 percent of the menu is a concoction of the usual Pan Asian fare in the city. Innovation and flavour profiles aren't really Cocochan's forte — but aesthetics are. It expands the market, though, making Pan Asian cuisine more accessible, and providing some much-needed competition. A Schumpterian approach through which innovation drives growth might be at play here. As the old guard Chinese restaurants phase out, Cocochan and counterparts consolidate their position in the market.
Should you go to Cocochan? Yes, because it bumped up the Pan Asian game a little bit, and maybe it will hit the spot for you. It is also visually appealing.
Is Cocochan bringing anything new to the market? Not really, but it's an ever-expanding and -evolving market. As long as Cocochan keeps evolving, and stays ahead of the curve while understanding the needs of its patrons, it has the potential to become a mass-market favourite.
Will it burn a hole in one’s pocket? No, it is competitively priced, and you may expect to pay prices similar to other neighbouring restaurants. A hearty meal here ought to cost somewhere to the north of Rs1500 per head, although it can be lower depending on what you order, and how much you eat.