The New Nolita Cocoron Soba is Just as Great as the Lower East Side Original 

SSPNY Tries Tasty Treats at the New Nolita Cocoron Soba and Discovers it's Just as Great as the Lower East Side Original

SSPNY checks out one of its favorite restaurants, Cocoron Soba noodle shop, at its new location on Kenmare in Nolita.

One of SSPNY's favorite bits of restaurant news last year was the opening of a second Cocoron Soba noodle shop, right on Kenmare, just a couple of blocks from our Nolita Elizabeth Street buildings. Not that the newer Cocoron is really all that far away from the original one over on Delancey. It's just that two Cocorons means more seats (the second is small by normal restaurant standards, but seems palatial when compared to the first); more chef's specials (the two have almost identical menus, but with key differences); more opportunity to dip and slurp what I think are the best soba noodles in town. And it's all super-healthy! If you want to eat food that makes you feel good about yourself, Cocoron does the trick every time. 

SSPNY enjoys the buck-wheat based soba noodles where it is available either hot or cold and with a variety of different preparations that are all more delicious than the last. 
Soba noodles, as you probably know, are the buckwheat-based cousins of the far-more common ramen. They're tough to pull off--sometimes too gummy, other times sadly bland--but the Cocoron chefs know what they're doing: in multiple visits to both locations I've never had anything but a perfect pile of noodles. And for place that's so focussed on a single item, there are a remarkable number of options on the Cocoron Soba menu, so much so that it can even be a bit overwhelming. Do you want your noodles cold (yes please, it's summer), or warm (oh, wait, these are really good too)? Do you want to dip your soba, or pour sauce on top? Are you a vegetarian? Feel like meat? Fish? In the mood to grind your own sesame seeds before eating? If it sometimes seems like each dish needs its own instruction manual, it's because it kind of does... but the friendly, patient staff and goofy, manga-illustrated menu are there to help. It's fun rather than frustrating, and because the Cocoron prices are low you can try a lot of different things with little risk. 
SSPNY decides on cold noodles on a steamy summer evening and gets the Cold Sukiyaki Soba special with a broth of sea kelp, smoking bonito, beef, tempura better and spicy sesame oil.  
 
My most recent visit to Cocoron Soba in Nolita was on a steamy, sticky evening, so I headed straight for the "cold" section of the menu, getting the Cold Sukiyaki Soba special. This was a fantastic dish, the noodles as good as ever, dipped into a broth of, apparently, sea kelp and smoked bonito, filled with chewy strips of beef, tempura butter and spicy sesame oil. A $1.50 surcharge got me a huge poached egg, which I promptly stirred into the mixture. And when you're done with your noodles, the Cocoron folks bring over a watering can of warm water, which your pour into the remains of your dipping sauce for a bonus bowl of soup! 
 
SSPNY wishes they had more sake while enjoying the Raw Octopus appetizer. 
My starters on this night included Cocoron's superb Homemade Silky Tofu, which is somehow equally exciting eaten plain (the texture is just amazing) or spooned into a bowl of soy sauce, grated ginger, flecks of salty seaweed and bonito flakes. The Raw Octopus with wasabi chunks was less pleasurable, not because it was prepared incorrectly, but rather because, as my server warned me, it's a dish best nibbled on when "drinking lots of sake". 
SSPNY hangs out with other Cocoron customers at the new location on the North side of Kenmare Street between Elizabeth and Mott.  
 
The Nolita Cocoron Soba is located in a basically unmarked spot on the north side of Kenmare Street between Elizabeth and Mott. It is open for lunch on Tuesday through Sunday from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m., and for dinner from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00. Closed Mondays. Cash only. The Cocoron website only talks about their Delancey shop, and the online menu isn't nearly complete, but here's the link anyway.    
 
SSPNY plans on more meals at Cocoron during its business hours: Tuesday-Sunday noon-3:00 PM and 6:00 PM-11:00 PM. 

Liu Bolin is "Hiding" Again, Now at Soho's Eli Klein Gallery 

SSPNY Explores Eli Klein's Fine Arts Gallery, Showing Liu Bolin's Hiding Exhibition and Other Chinese Artists

SSPNY checks out one of the many jaw dropping pieces of Liu Bolin’s Hiding series exhibit. As seen here, an individual is overwhelmed and pushed behind consumerist society represented by a bunch of cereal boxes.

Unlike what you'll find in Nolita's energetic gallery scene, a Soho gallery-going adventure is generally a fool's quest. With only a few exceptions--the excellent Swiss Institute on lower Wooster comes to mind, and sometimes Opera Gallery has good solo shows--galleries in Soho function mainly as stores, selling brand name artists and trendy styles to tourists. Which is fine, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't exactly make for a particularly compelling art-viewing experience for us locals. 

SSPNY first looks at an artwork from Hiding in California, where  an individual is hidden in front of the iconic Hollywood sign.
 
SSPNY next takes a look at the rapid growth of technology that has consumed many individuals in today’s media culture. This one is not so obvious but if one looks carefully, a person is camouflaged behind the sea of cell phones.
 
That said, the always-interesting Liu Bolin just opened a solo exhibition at usually-interesting Eli Klein on West Broadway, featuring a handful of his delightful "Hiding" photographs as well as works from a new series, Mask, that uses the form of traditional Chinese opera masks, now plastered with the labels of that country's most popular junk food and sugary drinks. It's all instantly engaging and provocative--the theme of the individual overwhelmed by contemporary, consumerist society is pretty obvious, but well stated--and well worth stopping in to see the next time you're in Soho.                    
 
SSPNY heads to the piece Hiding in New York, where an individual is blended in with the mighty USS Intrepid.
 
The large-scale, high-definition photographs in Liu Bolin's Hiding series (pictured throughout this post) are technically amazing, forceful and clear in their message, and just plain fun to look at. As you can probably tell, to create these photos Bolin (or one of his friends, like the great French street artist JR, below, photos by Rhiannon Platt) stands in front of something iconic, or silly, or beautiful, and assistants paint his entire body to exactly match the background. In addition to the photographs at Eli Klein, the exhibition also has the complete remnants of one of Liu Bolin's Hiding shoots, a "set" of cereal boxes and the clothing Bolin was wearing, post-painting. Very cool. 
 
French street artist JR is being painted by Bolin’s assistants in order to exactly match the background.
 
JR Through the Eye of Liu Bolin features JR as part of the artwork itself, located on West Broadway between Houston and Prince Street, open every day from 1 AM to 7 PM, along with Chinese artists Shen Shaomin and Li Hui.
 
Liu Bolin's Mask exhibition will be on display at the Eli Klein Gallery through July 21. Liu Bolin is located on West Broadway between Houston and Prince and is open every day from 1:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Oh and don't skip the pieces in the downstairs space by two other Chinese artists Shen Shaomin and Li HuiMore info about everything can be found here.  



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