Coco in Edison is low-key and cuts to the chase: It’s mainly Malaysian cuisine, with a side of Thai. It won’t blow you away with novelty, creativity or artful presentation. Its food is slightly Americanized yet sincere, and served in a manner that’s courteous and helpful.
Located in Edison’s multi-Asian diaspora, Coco makes all comers comfortable.
An easy way into Malaysian is the classic roti canai. Flaky little pancakes are served with a mild curry of equal parts chicken, potato and gravy. Though marked on the menu with a single chili pepper to indicate “hot and spicy,” it’s neither. The roti (soft flatbread) is buttery and chewy, right for dipping into the curry and scooping up bits of chicken and potato.
Fried squid is another good introductory dish. It comes with a mini mango salad. The squid is not unlike fried calamari familiar from Jersey Italian restaurants. Eat a chunk, then trade off with bites of mango salad and a stewy sauce dominated by okra and onions.
Gado gado, the Indonesian salad that’s typically a potpourri of composed vegetables and egg, here comes smothered in a heavy brown peanut sauce light on the expected chilies and fish sauce and big on crushed nuts. That overabundance of sauce threw the dish out of whack.
Coco’s kitchen got cookin’ with curried beef brisket, a small casserole with substantial flavor. There was depth of spice in the tender beef, hits of warmth from cumin and chilies, and nuance from coriander. It spoke to the melting-pot style of Malasian cuisine.
A very Malaysian type of fish-head casserole came with skinny string beans and small leaves of cabbage, which perked up in the sauce made vibrant by ginger and a flash of tomato. Though the batter on the fish heads could have been lighter, the meat on the fish cheeks was easily retrieved. Don’t be shy: Use your hands and gnaw at these heads like they are chicken drumsticks.
Tofu with shrimp and salt fish lived up to its billing as “home-style”—the kind of supper you might want if fighting off the spring flu that’s going around. Tiny shrimps, strips of fried fish fillet and hunks of stir-fried tofu share the bowl with peas, carrots, onions, peppers, mushrooms and celery.
Want a Malay version of oh-so-trendy pork belly?
Nab the crisp pork belly topped with at least half a head of Asian broccoli. It looks like something you might get at a Chinese take-out joint, but put tooth to the super-crunchy, slightly salty, crusted pork belly and you’ll know you’re in a different land.
Coco, 1803 Route 27 in Edison. Open for lunch and dinner daily. 732-777-1301 cocoasiancuisine.com
Photos: Andrea ClurfeldClick here to leave a comment