Restaurant Review: KOKO Bengaluru Misses The Sweet Spot By An Inch, But The Bar Wins

From the house of the Tham brothers comes KOKO with its second outlet, and the one in Bengaluru has everything going for it and yet does not have the magic, unless you’re drinking.

Published On Apr 24, 2024 | Updated On Apr 26, 2024


If KOKO was smaller and tucked away in a less difficult location (not that there are too many ‘easy’ locations in Bengaluru), had a shorter menu and focused more on the bar, it could put quite a few watering holes in the city out of business. But KOKO went the way KOKO did, with cocktails that can coerce people into having ‘just one more’, and food that oscillates from ‘pretty good’ to ‘decent’ to ‘meh’. 

Incidentally, KOKO isn’t just another neighbourhood bar and restaurant; it wants to encourage private parties, corporate lunches and events and so on, which is apparently why it’s spread across more than one level and has PDRs (private dining rooms) and even a rooftop space on top of the PDR level. Once the weather improves, the terrace might actually be where you’ll have the most fun, albeit the fact that you can see the luxurious Leela residences right next door and feel a tinge of envy. 

Hamachi Maki

Food arrives here rather quickly, and if they do need a little time, they tell you, something I massively appreciate not that I am ever in a rush when am at a restaurant. I had company, I had great conversation and in no time, I had a lavish spread before me.  Nikkei – a salad – comes with Hamachi, salmon, tuna, romaine hearts, iceberg, yuzu emulsion. We were off to a decent start with the yuzu bringing all the ingredients together. It however took me a lot less time to wolf down the sashimi plate of yellowtail. 

I hope you love sushi because there’s a lot going on here. The Koko Signature Roll with avocado, tempura asparagus, crisps, and the special KOKO sauce is passable. You can have this roll with tempura prawn as well. It’s simple and pretty decent. 

KOKO Signature Roll (non-vegetarian)

The California Roll is predictable – crab meat, caviar, avocado and cucumber. Nothing that knocks the ball out of the park, but more like a safe nibble while you sip on those delicious cocktails. If you’re feeling vegetarian, or are one, try the truffle, water chestnut, and sweet pea dumpling. I actually enjoyed the texture on this one. But the Edamame Truffle Money Bag is even cooler. Grab it, dunk it into any one of their sauces (they serve a few on the table) – my personal favourite would be the plum sauce – and bite into it. To stick to cliches, we did order a portion of Thai Lotus Root with bird eye chill. I do think this one would have done better if the lotus roots were sliced a little thinner. 

The one dish and I did enjoy was the Crispy Prawn Cheung Fun. I order it anywhere I see it. It’s not always that you’ll find the flat rice noodle done right. It’s got to be soft to a precise degree, nor too gooey that it falls off when you cut through it and neither too thick and chewy. Therefore, it has to be steamed right, with crispy prawns on the inside that simply cannot be under or overcooked. Not to mention the drizzle of sauce on top that brings the whole thing together. This one came close.

Edamame Truffle Money Bag

We also went through a few dumplings – the Chilean Sea Bass, the Prawn And Lemongrass, and the Belgian Pork dumplings are some I would recommend, but only if you really must eat dumplings.

I had no room for mains but then got greedy for the Edamame Black Rice with burnt garlic. It’s pretty good if you like those three ingredients. I tried it without anything but you might want to order a side of steamed snapper with spicy chopped chilli sauce. They serve in generous portions, so please bring friends who enjoy the same kind of food as you do or else you’ll have to sushi roll your way home. 

Tom Yum Cup

I have no clue who was mixing our drinks; I doubt I have met him anywhere else but God bless his skills. The Tom Yum Cup with is KOKO’s version of a chill tom comes with Absolut vodka, Madiera, galangal, lemongrass, lime, Thai chill syrup and Kaffir lime. Yes, it’s a lot and it packs in a punch. It’s a heady mix of sweet and sour that’s tied together by the gentle bite of the chilli syrup. Delicious. 

The Miso Caliente By Yao Lu - The Union Trading Company, Shanghai is where a 12-year-old Chivas Regal, red miso, honey, chilli tincture and dried seaweed (aka nori) get together to play a fun and tasty game. 

Miso Caliente

If you like Negroni, the one here has macerated mulberry in it, which I thought was pretty cool. It’s got a mellow aftertaste, just enough sweet and the spirits – Bombay Sapphire, Martini Rosso and Campari – get along well. 

The bar is loaded, not just with cocktails but with some seriously good spirits, if you like a straight drink without drama. But then again, if you’ve ever enjoyed a good old Whisky Sour, could you really say no to the Oaxaca Sour? Inhouse Mezcal with lemon juice, egg white and sugar syrup – it definitely is tempting. 

What was not tempting was my dessert. The Forbidden Fruit sounded so decadent that I just could not help myself. I mean how bad can the combination of orange and dark chocolate be. But what I got was a massive orange ball that was packed with chocolate mousse and had more chocolate, pistachio sable, more orange (the candied version), some vanilla chantilly on the side and chocolate crumble. In short, nope. 

Address: KOKO, Prestige Icon, 2nd Stage Kodihalli, Jeevan Bima Nagar, Bengaluru 

Timing: 12pm-4pm; 7pm-1am (Monday-Sunday) 

Meal for two: INR 3,000 (approx.)  

Photo: Featured Restaurant