Izakaya Lunch at CoZara

Philly is lacking in Izakayas; the Japanese, tapas-style, non-sushi, drinking encouraged type of place. CoZara, in University City, is helping to fill that gap. Open since late April, lunch service has finally started and I was lucky enough to receive an invite to try the lunch menu items.

Giant, salty potato chips came out first to wake up our taste buds.

Off the starter section, the rather dignified mushroom wontons with truffle soy cream are so rich and earthy, they would inspire any meat eater to cook with more fungus. As far as unconventional dumplings around Philly go, these have got to be high on the list.

A refreshing and unique cold soba sesame salad had both a sweet and briny essence and a mix of textures that would make a good starter to share or a nice take out option for yourself.

Gochuchang, a spicy fermented Korean paste, was the predominant flavor in the Hawaiian poke Don, a rice bowl with albacore tuna and mango.

I preferred the tonkatsu maki wrap ($10); juicy, panko breaded pork cutlets with tangy mayo and sushi rice, wrapped into soy paper. One could easily compare this to what Hai Street is doing (they also have salmon, mushroom, and a shrimp/eel wrap). But if you aren’t a nori fan, this will work out better for you. The soy paper was pretty awesome; fun to tear in to and it didn’t fall apart like most wraps do.

Nervous that the ramen might be an afterthought, I was thrilled to find that it wasn’t. The super soft pork belly and soft boiled egg in the “paitan” ramen ($13) were perfect. I don’t know why so many places get that wrong. The broth hiding the snappy noodles was on the subtle side, but had the milky goodness that only comes from hours of lovingly boiling down pork bones.

Dessert made me happy. I love when sweetness is paired with green tea and these delicate red bean pancakes with green tea mousse were a really clever and successful finish.

While izakayas are traditionally small and casual, CoZara has an expensive space with a modern aesthetic that makes it accessible for students, families, and large groups of all levels of familiarity with Japanese cuisine. With its enticing dinner and lunch menus, along with ongoing specials like a $2 happy hour menu, I can see University City fully embracing CoZara.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • Polished izakaya style food in a well designed space
  • Vegetarian, seafood, and meaty options

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • But I wanted sushi

CoZara, 3200 Chestnut Street,  267 233 7488


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