Conversations and laughter flow at CoCoRu (8391 Alexandra Road), as much as the beer, with pitchers dotting every table. The patrons are boisterous, the music to match, the volume of both increasing throughout the night. Everyone’s got their bar snacks to share, in every shade of deep fried that the imagination could bear. It’s a drinking night, for you, for me, for everyone that’s here.

CoCoRu exterior

Photo Credit: Joe Chen

If this was any other neighbourhood bar, that’d be a sign of success. But this isn’t a neighbourhood bar, at least not in the conventional sense. It’s a Korean fried chicken restaurant, the only one presently in Richmond, and one of only a handful in the Lower Mainland. And for that, it’s a sign of novelty.

Every Asian cuisine has its drinking culture in some form – there’s no denying that.  A 2014 report pegged South Koreans for drinking 13.7 shots of liquor per week on average, more than any other country in the world (Canada clocked in at 2.5 shots of liquor per week, for frame of reference). Be it with beer or soju, a fermented rice wine spirit coming in at a somewhat low 14 per cent alcohol by volume, South Koreans know how to unwind.


Photo Credit: Joe Chan

Apart from Japanese izakayas, however, most Korean drinking haunts have yet to translate well for the general public in the Lower Mainland. This, in part, informs CoCoRu’s novelty value: the place has crossover appeal. It’s as common in the room to hear English, Cantonese or Mandarin floating through the air as Korean, all the many syllables of every language competing with the many notes and nuances of K-Pop (and the occasional Bieber) videos blaring on the televisions and speakers.

These are hyperreal images, technicolour as it comes, and the remainder of the room is decorated in motifs just as bubble-gum, cartoon characters adorning the walls and vinyl toys facing the entrance. All of this only heightens the kitsch value of CoCoRu’s menu choices, where fried chicken comes in not-too-many different varieties of glaze, and the non-poultry choices come in all-too-many varieties of “why” and “why not.”


Photo Credit: Joe Chan

For the uninitiated and curious, start with the simple fried chicken, whose batter is crispy and light (tempura may well be in the mix), but with an otherworldly quality that exists beyond mere imprint of the buttermilk battered fried chicken from the American South.

The other chicken options may seem more exotic, but in reality, aren’t that different.  The yangnyeom (which simply means “glazed” in Korean) chicken, available both bone-in and boneless, may have hints of gochujang, a savoury and spicy condiment found in many Korean households, but tastes more of red – just bright red – than anything else. The dakgangjeong, or sweet crispy chicken, has slightly more points of interest: “gangjeong” is a traditional Korean confectionary, and there’s a sticky, syrupy quality to this that compliments the sensory overload of the surroundings.


Photo Credit: Joe Chan

Wash both down with beer (Korean, Japanese, Tsingtao and “craft”, largely Parallel 49 are available here), and ponder the other menu choices. Wonder about the existence of cheese corn, a dish of frozen niblets and cheese melted on top (pictured above, top right), and at its astounding cost ($8).Consider the salads, as silly an option here as at an amusement park, and opt for the deep fried rice cakes (pictured above, bottom left) instead, a worthwhile exercise in excess in an atmosphere that condones it. Let your curiosity linger for just a touch longer…until you, as everyone else here, acknowledges that it’s all about the chicken.

Settle your focus back on the room, its controlled chaos and its novelty. Find CoCoRu’s charm in its newness, because this will become a new drinking paradigm, just perhaps not the right one for you or I. But in the interim, take it in, because CoCoRu is an atmosphere that condones wonder…or at least bemusement.