During the day Philly’s University City neighborhood is a smorgasbord of food trucks selling food from across the world, but by about 9pm most of the local restaurants, at least near my hotel, were closing down. I found coZara, an Izakaya and sushi bar, right before last call for food. Apparently coZara’s menu has gone through several re-vamps since it opened in 2014 with a 60+ item Izakaya menu. But according to a Philly Mag article this diversity of options seemed to intimidate patrons and the locals wanted sushi, so it rebooted by adding a sushi bar and whittling the Izakaya menu down to a single page.
The small plate style Okonomiyaki they served was really good, although I would have preferred a little more cabbage in the pancake batter, and the Shishito peppers were also great. However, their pork katsu skewer, about 2 ounces of pork on a skewer, encrusted with panko, deep fried then covered in brown sauce and kewpie mayo, lacked any pork flavor and underwhelmed.
The Dumplings: coZara serves pork gyoza that can be ordered, steamed, fried or pan seared. The pan seared option produced a really nice crispy wrapper, that had caramelized notes in the flavor. The gyoza filling had a great crunch texture from pieces of water chestnut that had been mixed into the pork. Between this crunch and the crispy wrapper, I really enjoyed the mouth feel of these dumplings. But the pork filling was bland, bordering on tasteless, and while water chestnuts provide great texture, they don’t bring any flavor. I don’t know where they are sourcing their pork or why they are not seasoning it, but coZara doesn’t seem to do pork well.
The Dipping Sauce: When a dumpling is bland I hope for a great dipping sauce that I can use the dumpling as a delivery vehicle for. Unfortunately, coZara didn’t really produce on this front either, it seemed like straight soy sauce mixed with some chili oil.
The Location: coZara is in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood, near Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. It is on Chestnut street between South 33rd and South 32nd streets.