Kooma, West Chester

151 Gay St.
West Chester, PA

Rating: 4 silver spoons out of 5

Overview: Hip Sushi Bar / Japanese restaurant located in the heart of West Chester. Kooma is a double threat — a very cool room with fabulous, fresh sushi. No longer BYOB, unfortunately.

Food: Full sushi bar as well as a full menu of Japanese cuisine. (The sushi is so good at Kooma that we have only tasted appetizers and sushi; we never had the need to try other entrees.) The steamed pork dumplings — half-moon pan seared dumplings (as opposed to the circular ones that aren’t as good) — were excellent. The must have appetizer is the Negima, thin sliced sirloin rolled (like a sushi roll) with cream cheese and scallions, which is unique and wonderful.

For sushi, the fish is always very fresh and tasty — and while I cannot claim to be a sushi connoisseur, Kooma has the best I’ve ever tasted. They have the traditional Nigiri and plenty of rolls. Although I’ve read that sushi places use the worst fish in their “spicy” rolls, here at Kooma the spicy tuna roll ($6.50) is a must-have. They really ought to bottle and sell the spicy sauce — it is that good. I’d put it on everything. Kooma’s more expensive specialty rolls are stunning in both sight and taste — my personal favorite is the “Sakura” roll ($15.95) — a spicy salmon roll (with that sauce again) with salmon “on top”. Its a large piece, but a gorgeous piece of fresh salmon above the spicy roll is just perfect.

View Kooma’s sushi menu here

Bar: While I miss the days of BYOB, the bar at Kooma is quite good. There is an extensive martini list, a good variety of saki and plenty of wines under $30, so you don’t have to break the bank (though you might with a few specialty martinis). The bar turns into more of a drinking spot late night, complete with a DJ.

Ambiance: Colorful, stylish room with a large (19-seat!) sushi bar and a spacious dining area. One might expect to see a swank room like Kooma’s in Old City or Manayunk, but in West Chester it is quite the surprise. Club-style music keeps the feeling (but is not distracting) and waiters wear all black — again, a sign the West Chester is definitely changing. There are also a few tables outside on the sidewalk during the warm weather months.

Value: Kooma is not cheap, but neither is top of the line fresh fish. I once paid over $40 for takeout for 2 — a bit more than I normally would for a pick-up meal, but then again this is the best sushi around, so its worth a little extra.

# of times we’ve eaten there: 5+
Reservations: No – call ahead for large groups
Bar: Full (lots of saki)

Iron Hill Brewery, West Chester

Corner of Gay & High Sts.
West Chester, PA

Rating: 3 silver spoons out of 5

Overview: Typical Microbrewery atmosphere with above average food & beer for a microbrew pub. Often tremendous waits on weekends or even for lunch during the week.

Food: Upscale pub fare — great burgers and the like but also some more intricate dishes that are better than expected. Start with the artichoke & cheese dip or the hummus — both are excellent. The burger comes on a garlic pretzel roll and is one of the better ones around, and the pork barbeque sandwich is also very tasty. I’ve never eaten the pizza but some fellow diners swear by the Lejon (shrimp, bacon and horseradish). At dinner, the salmon entree changes daily and is normally very good.

Ambiance: Noisy brewpub, but a fun place to hang out that isn’t too over the top. Can be difficult to find a seat at the bar on weekends (if you’re just drinking or waiting for a table). Try the bar in the back. In nice weather there are some seats out on the sidewalk… if you go at an off-peak time, its a great place to hang out.

Service: Fine for this type of place.

Value: Suprisingly good food & award-winning beer at reasonable prices — I’d say that’s pretty good.

# of times we’ve eaten there: 5+
Reservations: No – long waits are common.
Payments: Cards
Bar: Full
Website: http://www.ironhillbrewery.com

There are other Iron Hill locations in Media, PA, Newark, DE, Phoenixville, PA, Wilmington, PA and North Wales, PA.