A Warm Welcome
The weather is switching from summer to fall, which makes going out to eat warm food very welcoming around this time of year. Tucked away on the opposite side of the street from the Homeplus in Bucheon is a quaint restaurant named Cocoro. Its name comes from Japanese etymology and has a tangible and an abstract meaning. It can mean heart, mind, mentality, emotions, or feelings. The very definition of Cocoro is how owner Braiden Choi approaches cooking and serving food to his customers. His customers include people of all ages, as well as native Korean speakers or foreigners. His interest in cooking came from his father, who had been a Chef at the Shilla Hotel and operated a Galbi Tang 갈비탕 restaurant for over 40 years. Having lived in Bucheon for two years, I have had friends visit from the U.S. and this is one of the first places I bring them to.
Cocoro is a modest restaurant that specializes in noodles 면류, ramen 라멘, donburi 돈부리, spicy curry 매은카레, salmon 연어, and yakitori 야키토리. Choi emphasizes that his food isn’t simply a Korean-Japanese fusion. Having traveled to Japan in his youth, Choi has developed the recipes on his own while adjusting them as necessary with feedback from his customers. Choi places quality, preparation, and fresh ingredients as the key to satisfying a patron’s appetite. When asked about a favorite dish or drink, he replied by saying “...most customers tend to like their first dish and repeatedly order it in the future.” As for the best drink, he recommends that alcohol should be paired with specific dishes. Meaning sake goes well with salmon, yakitori compliments beer, and soju suits JJamppong 짬뽕.
While it is modest in size, the patio and indoor area allow seating for small groups of friends or a get together. Both Korean and Western music such as rhythm and blues, hip hop, or instrumental fill the restaurant. The sounds of the kitchen blend with the aroma of cooked food to give a homely feeling. Ordering a beer or soju is perfect while one is waiting for their food to come out. Choi takes special care in making the meals to the customer’s preference. He builds rapport with his customers and remembers their allergies, dietary needs, and tastes. I have known him for over two years and no matter what I feel like ordering, he remembers my dietary restrictions and suggestions new dishes for me to try.
“This is not a job,” says Choi. “It feels like a second home.” He believes that the relationship between the customer and the restaurant is very important. Choi knows that people have many tastes and many restaurants have their own menus. He hopes to leave the customer having felt satisfied with their choice in food and to be able to walk out the door with happy memories shared with their friends, coworkers, or family. It is open for dinner and closes around one or two in the morning. The restaurant is a perfect place for locals and foreigners to eat, drink, and enjoy each other’s company. Home is where the heart is and if you look hard enough, you’ll find it in Cocoro.
Take the Subway Line 7 (Dark Green [not lime green]) to Sang Dong Station. Walk out of Exit 8 and walk towards Tom & Toms coffee. Once you get to Tom & Toms Coffee, take a left and walk 10 meters. The restaurant looks like this. Happy Eating!