Chef Hiroyuki Tanaka of Zama, opened his second restaurant in Philadelphia, CoZara in April 2014. With a great following from Zama, University City quickly welcomed the restaurant at 3200 Chestnut Square, open for lunch and dinner serving Japanese izakaya and sushi. Executive Chef Tanaka, is one of the Philadelphia’s most venerated sushi chefs, and is deeply knowledgeable and passionate about his craft.
CoZara offers diners two floors with a wide variety of dining options including a 10-seat open kitchen, nine seat bar as well as the geisha room, an upstairs private room. Designed by Boxwood Architects, the restaurant has a chic relaxed atmosphere with varying textures of gray, blonde wooden tables and black iron chairs. Red accents and hand painted images of Shoguns and Geisha serve as the only adornment. Modern red silk moire drum lighting fixtures cast a dim glow. Ceilings are exposed industrial black duct work. A 30 seat outdoor terrace is also available in the summer months.
We met Chef de Cuisine Phila Lorn, he is from South Philly and spoke with us about the name of the restaurant meaning small plates, the entire menu consists of Japanese food served tapas style including dumplings, soba, yakatori, and other favorites. The bar features unique sakes, local beer, and Japanese beer, such as Hitachino and Asahi on tap. It also offers Japanese specialty cocktails called Chu-Hai (Shochu + Highball), and sake cocktails.
Try a $5 City Wide special featuring a can of Orion Beer and shot of sake. Or stop by for happy hour Monday-Friday 5-7pm to enjoy $3 Japanese and domestic beers, sake, and Pom-Tea with green tea vodka and pomegranate liquor. $4 House Wine, Ozeki Nigori, “Devil Slayer” Sake and Yuzu Cosmo with vodka, sake, yuzu, cranberry, and lime.
Small plates are great for sharing and enjoying with some drinks. For starters we had the Salmon Skin Nachos with pico de gallo, jalapenos, spicy mayo, truffle eel sauce, and ikura. These are some inspired nachos, with very crispy skin and packed with unique flavors- the spicy mayo and eel sauce is simply drizzled on top making this a very light dish. We loved the Mushroom Wontons with truffle soy creme these are a must! The Grilled Avocado with ponzu spicy cruncky salmon was also extremely delicious.
With cold months ahead you might want to opt for ramen, available in a small or large bowl. Options at CoZara include seafood, chicken, pork, and duck varieties. We tried the small Yuzu Chick Ramen with sliced chicken breast, roasted lemon, yuzu kosho, and soft egg. This ramen had a great acidity to the broth from the lemon and bright flavors great for someone looking for a healthier ramen option. The Salt Braised Pork Belly here is also made with a recipe passed down from Chef Lorn’s mother, so you know its tried and true to make a tender pork belly.
And of course you can’t forget about the sushi at CoZara. Originally the restaurant didn’t plan to serve sushi, but with Zama as their critically acclaimed sister restaurant- the crowds of University City wanted it bad. Paying tribute to their neighbors, CoZara offers a U Penn Roll with spicy crunchy tuna jalapeno maki, tempura chilean sea bass, over sweet spicy sauce and a Drexel Dragon Roll with kani and cream cheese tempura maki, eel, and cucumber.
We had the Mystery Box Sushi combination with a side of Salmon Roe. This plate is made with a different assortment fish daily shipped fresh to the restaurant every Tuesday and Friday. The chef doesn’t even know what type of fish is being sent until the box arrives!
Next time we’ll be sure to grab dessert too. CoZara is serving up Banana Spring Rolls with miso caramel a la mode which sound so good. Of course for traditionalists, they’ve got Mochi Ice Cream too. Stop by during happy hour to enjoy $3 Chicken Skin with hot sauce, Shrimp Shumai, and Hand Rolls (Veggie, Salmon Avocado, Philly). $4 Chilean Sea Bass Bao Bun, Pork Bao Bun, and Hand Rolls (Spicy Crunchy Shrimp, Shrimp Tempura, Shrimp California, Eel Avocado). $5 Softshell Crab Bao Bun and Hand Rolls (Yellowtail Jalapeno Mango, Spicy Tuna, Spicy Crunchy Tuna). Reservations are easily made via OpenTable and delivery is available via GruhHub, Caviar, and UberEATS.