With my job as food columnist for the year coming to close, I felt the pressure of time. Do I try to write a safe, legitimate article about It’s Greek To Me? Or do I go out in a flame of glory and review the Unicorn Frappacino on the last day it’s offered? Fortunately for Maryia, I remembered the Koro Koro Riceball Cafe, right on Second and Washington. I had seen it open in Hoboken about a month ago and was dying to try it. My experience with rice balls so far was limited to the ones at Mitsuwa, so I couldn’t wait to go.
At first glance, Koro Koro is incredibly small. There’s no debating that. The interior is really more of a waiting area, and there are only a few chairs and tables set up out front. While you can eat here, its probably better to order for take out, to both save on space and pride. Trust me, you will spend at least 5 minutes clumsily unwrapping your first rice ball (or just watch the video on their website like the nice cashier told you to). Space aside, the prices and variety abound at Koro Koro. Counting only rice balls, there are 11 different flavors with a special flavor of the day as well. On top of that, they also offer salads, specialty coleslaw, soups, and mochi! Finally, if you were concerned about gluten or vegan options, stress not; all of their options are gluten free and they have multiple vegan options to boot.
Given that each rice ball is only $3.25, I decided I might as well try as many as I could. This was met with enthusiastic surprise from the cashier, and an awkward exchange where I explained I was buying food for my brother and his girlfriend too (I lied). On top of it all, I also ordered a Koro Koro coleslaw, because who isn’t intrigued by wasabi pineapple coleslaw? Surprisingly, the small waiting area filled quickly while I was waiting and soon we were all shoulder to shoulder. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long, and quickly started my trek back to campus to see what all this buzz was about.
Given how many I got, I’ll try to describe just a few of my highlights, in no particular order. First up was the Spicy Salmon, which tasted as wonderfully as I had hoped. The tuna was savory, the spice kicked it up, and the garlic and kimchi rounded out the bite with some strong overtones. The rice was also incredibly fluffy and not matted down. Next up was the original Miso Beef Ball. It had a delightfully savory flavor that was seasoned to perfection, filled with shallots, onions, and ginger that gave the beef a much needed refreshing taste to it. It reminded me a lot of classic beef and noodles. Definitely do not overlook this ball just because it appears to be the most basic. Another favorite of mine was the Indian ball. The chickpeas, carrots, and sweet potato combined excellently with the curry-like flavors, and they were followed up by the sweetness of the occasional raisin that surprised you out of nowhere. On top of that, the aftertaste was almost bitter; it was truly a roller coaster of sensations. Finally, some other quality mentions I tried that deserve your money were: Yama Chicken, Moroccan, Tuna Puttanesca, Conchinita Pibil, and Mediterrean.
Koro Koro Rice Ball Cafe carries itself on the strength of its culinary innovation. They do not stick to the established norms of rice balls or do they rely on mass produced varieties of Onigiri. If you’re looking for a quick lunch and are open to trying new things, or just are feeling adventurous at any time of day, Koro Koro Rice Ball Cafe is definitely the place for you.