Kozara in Worcester
(Not making the Woo-mistake again.)
Wilson Wang, chef/owner at Baba on Park Ave., opened Kozara next door around the start of this year. It's a very sleek and stylish place -- you'd never guess it used to be a convenience store. The concept is Asian tapas, and their specialty is tori, Japanese grilled skewers of meat, seafood, and vegetables.
We went there last night -- it was nearly empty, while Baba (according to Wilson) was packed as usual. Wanting to check out their range, we went with a tasting menu ($75 for two) that was very nice.
Things started well with an amuse bouche of salmon tartare on a banana chip -- really delicious, with the flavor profile of some of Baba's best dishes. Then we had two nice salads -- one daikon-based with a ponzu dressing, and one green papaya with a sweet chili dressing. Very fresh and tasty.
Some raw oysters appeared next -- the ones from PEI were great, and the ones from CT were OK and a nice contrast. A mild sauce gave a touch of Asianness.
Shrimp, pork, and veggie steamed dumplings were OK, but they need to work on thinner, more resilient wrappers. The pork had the best flavor.
Maybe the most interesting dish was a "crunchy wrap," sort of a tempura-fried roll filled with a really nicely-flavored pork fillling and served with hoisin (pictured).
We got to try three types of tori -- head-on shrimp, bacon-wrapped enoki, and lamb. All simple and tasty, especially the enoki.
Then there was a sweet-and-sour pork rib dish -- I'm not a big fan of sweet-and-sour, but this had a nice vinegary bite -- and maybe the highlight, some pork meatballs in a killer sauce with Sichuan flavors, accompanied by some coconut-rice balls that were sort of an Asian take on arancini.
They ended with two desserts -- a light chocolate mousse, and then an exceptional passionfruit cheesecake, which was super-light, rich, and satisfying,
As with Baba, all the presentations were really nice. Lots of orchids and artful arrangements.
They have a long list of signature cocktails, although we went with wine from a short but well-priced list. Service was prompt and well-meaning, and Wilson is always a gregarious host.
It's a nice addition to the Worcester dining scene, and worth a try, especially if you like to graze on small dishes. Most of the dishes were in the $4 - $8 range, I think. Like Baba, not cheap but with great attention to detail.