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Aug 21, 2008 01:02 PM

Koo Marlboro NJ

The sign reads "Neo-Japanese Pan-Asian Cuisine". I am both worried and interested by the plethora of hyphens.

The menu looks to be mostly sushi/Japanese and Thai/Malaysian, all of which I like. And, of course, it is not another red sauce Italian joint.

So, before I take another one for the team, has anyone been there already?


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  1. Have not had the opt, to eat at Koo, but it seems that there may be as many bad Asian restaurants in NJ as red sauce Italian...

    1. Hey, seal,

      As I type this, I've got a "Grand Opening Special 15% off entire check coupon" sitting on my desk. (Good until Sept. 30.) But to be honest, I'm loathe to try the place. You're always so good about taking one for the team, in case you didn't see it in the Savvy Shopper, if you want mine, let me know.

      You did miss an opportunity to try some of their food without paying. There was a free tasting on July 25th. (We were in NYC.)

      Also, there's another new Asian restaurant in Marlboro: Zen Japanese, in the Marlboro Diamond strip mall, on Route 9 South. 15% off coupon as well.

      22 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        Curse my impatience!

        It is soooo close to my house and we were thinking take-out anyway...

        So, I gave them a try just now. Ordered papaya salad, clear soup with mushroom, spicy rock shrimp, roti with curry, shrimp tempura sushi, and chicken pad thai. The short of it is - meh!

        Papaya salad without the fish sauce based dressing??? That is my favorite part. Beyond upsetting.

        Clear soup that my 9 year old daughter loooooves at Kanji got a few sips before being put aside. "What did we get that tastes good?" she asked.

        Spicy rock shrimp was not bad but not nearly as good as Kanji or Yumi.

        Roti was so greasy that it had to be blotted before eating, but at least the accompanying curry sauce with potato and a few bits of meat was decent.

        Shrimp tempura sushi was plain, but not bad with the addition of some Sriracha hot sauce from my pantry.

        Finally the chicken pad thai. It looked good, but one taste had me leaving the rest uneaten. And I had dreams of it being as good as Cafe de Thai or Thai Chili or even the stuff I make at home, but nooooo.

        I did have a 15% off coupon, but I would have gladly paid 45% more for decent food. And I sooo wanted to like this place as they are only a few minutes from me, but alas.

        1. re: seal

          I hate to say it but, "Quel surprise!" Too bad, really. I agree it would have been nice to have a place in Marlboro with food as good as Cafe de Thai, Thai Thai, and Thai Chili.

          I wonder how long Koo will last?

          Btw, is it located in the shopping center that formerly housed the A&P?

          1. re: RGR

            Koo is in the "cursed" shopping center where Acme used to be.

            I went there for lunch with my daughter. I found the food to be mediocre and the service to be amazingly horrible!

            While I cannot give you detailed descriptions of the forgettable food, I will tell you about my experience.

            We went during lunch hour, it was busy but not full, plenty of available tables. Upon ordering our drinks, the waiter/possibly owner/manager didnt exactly let us order what we wanted. I asked for a diet coke, my daughter wanted a Shirley Temple if they had it and if they didnt she wanted to know what they had. He hastily said back to us..2 diet cokes and we were like...noooooo. One diet coke and one 7 up.

            Then the food came, we ordered a hot dish (shrimp w/ mango if I remember correctly) and a sushi roll. We were "allowed" to eat it for as long as that waiter guy wanted us to. He removed our food dishes before we were nearly finished. All entrees come w/ soup and salad, both were passable. During this lunch I felt very put off by this server man, as he kept coming up to us like we were infringing upon his space.

            After our entrees were removed, I we wanted to try their bubble tea.
            Since I never had bubble tea before, I asked the waiter what 2 were the most popular or the best. I explained that we wanted to try 2 different varieties so that we can share. So he kinda demanded to us that we would get 2 milky teas. I said no, we want to try 2 different bubble teas, and I just randomly picked one off their menu.

            He brought our check to us before i was ready also...I had the 15% off coupon and was unable to tell him about it before he gave us our check. He then had to go to the girl up at the podium who adjusted the price and fixed the check.

            All in all, I would have to say...I will never go back to Koo.
            I live in Freehold and if I want Japanese, Mahzu is where I will go.
            Also, I love the green tea ice cream at mahzu.


            1. re: MishyPoo

              Ah, yes, it was Acme. Thanks for the correction, Michelle.

              You are right. That shopping center is cursed. Obviously, Acme had a very short life span. As far as restaurants go, two Italians -- Mediterraneo (which we tried twice) and Tanti Baci (never tried) -- have failed. There was also a Subway on that didn't make it.

              Based on seal's experience and yours, I think the clock is already ticking for Koo.

          2. re: seal

            Seal - Thanks for taking another one for the team.

            1. re: bgut1

              I ate there a few weeks ago with my wife and another couple. It was fairly empty when we arrived.. 7:30 or so on a Thursday night. Waiter was nice, knowledgeable, not Asian.

              I had the salmon martini for an appetizer, which was a generous portion. I found it to be excellent. Salmon sashimi, tempura "crunchies", avocado, and spicy mayo. For dinner, I had some sushi. The spicy tuna was quite good. I also thought the mackerel nigiri was quite good as well. Of course, they were out of (or didn't have) uni. The scallop was fresh and raw. I had asked for ikura (salmon eggs), the waiter brought a salmon nigiri instead, but quickly replaced it with the correct order.

              All the sushi was good. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't memorably outstanding. My friends and wife seemed to enjoy their meals.

              One couple walked in 5 minutes before closing (with an infant) and were promptly seated with no problems.. maybe they really need the business.

              Overall, it was good. But, not anything I'd rush back for. I might hit it for a sushi lunch sometime.

              There's another review of it here.. by DJMarilyn, who's also on this board:


              1. re: MarlboroMan

                Well, I guess the upshot if it is to stick to the sushi and stay away from the Thai food.

                Still, how can they put Pad Thai on their menu when it wasn't even as good as a boxed mix from the supermarket??

                1. re: seal

                  Personally I had always loved the shrimp pad thai from Koo- as a former New Yorker, I consider myself to have good taste. However recently when the fam went out to lunch it was not as good. The noodles were watery, peanuts forgotten (no peanuts in pad thai!?!?!) and overall just lacking...something. The fried rice was even greasier than usual. We want to believe that the chef has changed because there can be no other excuses for such a change! perhaps he will get better.

                  1. re: girlwholovestoeat

                    One of the owners worked at Ft. Monmouth. It's likely she went to MD when it closed. That might be one reason for the change.

                    1. re: cantkick

                      have you noticed that there are no good asian res. in nj...or in this area at least

                      1. re: girlwholovestoeat

                        No, because it's not true. There are plenty talked about on this board that are excellent.

                2. re: MarlboroMan

                  Yeah, overall we noted it as simply just "good". While everything tasted okay, certainly nothing stood out as "stellar". We weren't disappointed or anything, but it was not put on our list to rush back to.

                  In my humble opinion, the BEST Japanese/sushi restaurant in Monmouth County, remains Kanji in Tinton Falls. With Ichiban and Takara (Ocean/Oakhurst) as runners-up.

                  Alas, I won't have the opportunity to go back to any of my favorite sushi places in Monmouth County as I move back to Philadelphia in a week. So I will be posting more and more on the Pennsylvania board. Look for my reviews of sushi restaurants over there. :)

                  1. re: DJMarilyn

                    Hey, DJMarilyn,

                    We recently spent several days in Philadelphia where we did a whole lot of dining -- actually, the main purpose of the trip. I can't comment on sushi spots since I don't eat it; however, there are lots of terrific dining options. I'm pleased to say that every meal we had was first-rate!

                    Best of luck on your move and Bon Appetit!

                    1. re: RGR

                      Thanks for the well wishes RGR!

                      I lived in Philly before I moved to Monmouth County so I'm excited to be going back! There's been several new restaurants that have opened that I'm really excited about - Amada, Parc, Ly Michael's, and others. I'm obviously looking forward to re-acquainting myself with the sushi restaurants. ;)

                      I've already started a new food blog to document my dining adventures. :)

                      1. re: DJMarilyn

                        DJMarilyn - Sorry to see you leave Jersey. I'll miss reading your blog :) BTW, while I wouldn't call it a sushi restaurant, the Wife and I truly enjoyed a dinner at Morimoto several years back. Anyway, good luck with your move.

                        1. re: bgut1

                          Morimoto has been on my list for YEARS to go to. Hopefully I'll land a big client with a healthy wallet, and I will celebrate by going there. Or, now that I'm newly single, some nice gentleman will woo me by taking me there. I can dream! :)

                        2. re: DJMarilyn


                          We ate at Amada. I highly recommend it. You should definitely go to Zahav, which opened in May. And if you've not been to Vetri, it's a must!!

                          1. re: RGR

                            Thanks for the recommendations RGR!

                            1. re: RGR

                              Hey RGR, Amada is great isn't it. Chef Garces is so creative. If I can ask, I know you don't like a high level of noise and Amada can often be controlled mayhem :))
                              Was the noise really bad on your visit there. That is our only complaint but the food is super.

                              1. re: tom246

                                Hey, Tom,

                                We went to Amada for an early lunch on a Friday. We were actually the first ones there. The dining area did slowly fill though a couple of the larger tables remained unoccupied. There was no noise problem at all. I should add that nobody was in the capacious bar area, which might also be a factor. So, presuming you've been there for dinner, it would appear that lunch is much quieter -- or, at least, it was on the day we were there. And, yes, the food at Amada is seriously delicious!

                                1. re: RGR

                                  Being first in the restaurant for lunch does help with the noise:))
                                  Yes, we have been for dinner and with the place full it gets a bit hectic but the food makes up for it.
                                  Old City is a great area for nice restaurants.

                            2. re: DJMarilyn

                              Sad to see you leave this board but look forward to your Philly posts.
                              We go there often and can recommend anything from a great burger to the best of dinners.
                              Good luck on the move.

                3. We haven't been yet but my wife is a big fan on bubble tea, so I got some to go for her on my way home one day and she said it was excellent. Will definnitely give it a try soon and report back.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: cnjlove2eat

                    Our neighbors went to Koo Saturday night. They checked out the flyer menu that was circulated throughout our area and decided that they wanted to have the Peking Duck for two. They get to the restaurant, get seated after 5 or 10 minutes and ask the waiter all about the preparation for the Peking Duck. He talks with them all about it and takes their order. In the interim, they have their salad and a dumpling appetizer, which they said wasnt bad. They are waiting and waiting for the main dish. After 40 minutes from placing their order, the waiter comes back and tells them, sorry, we have no Peking Duck left. My neighbors flipped and asked for the manager. They could not understand why it would take 40 minutes to learn that what they ordered was not available and they explained that they came specifically for the Peking Duck. The manager offered them 15% off their bill. My friends said they werent interested and walked out. Koo better get their act together or they will be throo very shortly in Marlboro.

                    1. re: charmel

                      I am surprised peking duck is even on their menu! Tell your friends to visit Peking Pavillion in Manalapan for the best Peking Duck in the area!

                      On a side note about Koo....Ya think they could change the decor left by the previous Italian restaurants that used to be there?? It is all out of balance!!


                      1. re: MishyPoo

                        MishyPoo, do you know if Peking Duck is available all the time at Peking Pavillion, or if it is only offered as a special?

                        1. re: DrewBB

                          Hello Drew,

                          The peking duck at Peking Pavillion is always on the menu there. It does take slightly longer to come out then the usual dish, but it is well worth the wait. Whenever my husband and I go there, we always get it....that and the beef fried rice. Also, the black bean chicken is excellent. I urge you to go to Peking Pavillion on Rt 33 in Manalapan for the peking duck, you will not be disappointed. They do not take reservations for parties under 6 ppl.


                  2. The more I read, the more it sounds like this place is trying to do way too much and end up doing nothing well... Thai food, sushi, Asian fusion dishes AND Peking Duck, sound like way too much menu item to handle.....
                    I think I will stay away for now. If it stays open/survive for another couple months, i might take a shot and try them.

                    1. I thought Koo was ok. I asked for brown rice with my salmon lunch box and enjoyed the brown rice. Service was good so I can't complain about that. We had a table next to us that didn't like one of the appetizers that she had ordered and their waiter sincerely apologized for the food. Wish we had him because he seemed more friendlier than our guy.