Photo by Amy TheligOrange County restaurants abound with bizarre anthropomorphic spokesfoods. Santa Ana's Patzcuaro Restaurant used to paint a tuna on its window that squeezed lemon on itself as it snuggled within the confines of a tortilla. The logo for Brooklyn Pizza Works in Placentia, meanwhile, is a frightening smiling pie with a mushroom doubling as a pug nose. And what bluehair hasn't yearned for the simpler days underneath the giant neon hen of the La Palma Chicken Pie Shop? But there is no stranger local eatery mascot than the one flashing outside Super Corokke in Costa Mesa's Tiny Tokyo district: a corokke.
Corokke, like bukkake films and corporate graft, is a Japanese take on an American standard—in the corokke's case, the resolutely down-home croquette. But, like the Walkman and the V4 engine, the Japanese corokke is superior to its American inspiration—steamier, expanded to the length and girth of a hamburger bun, and engorged with a surprising array of fillings. Super Corokke offers nine different eponyms: a shotput-sized cream corokke oozing with a puree of corn, squid and fish that tastes like marine-tinged mashed potatoes; the evocatively named Popeye, filled with spinach strands and bacon bits simultaneously bitter and crispy. Better is the curry corokke, a mash-up that fuses the light, almost imperceptible burn of Japanese curry with some good-ol'-boy crunchiness. The corokke is college-town Japanese grub: fried within minutes, microwave-friendly and extraordinarily cheap—a buck for one or, after eight in the evening, fifty measly cents.
Unlike the quiet grace of a sushi house or the frenzied bacchanals of an izaka-ya, Super Corokke is rather grimy: a cluttered space with a bulletin board advertising cars, rental offers or work; the faded menu including colored pictures of each available entrée along with its name in English and Japanese; KIIS-FM blasting at annoying decibel levels. It's a prole atmosphere worthy of the humble corokke, but not all is corokke at Super Corokke. They also broil a couple of fish breeds and pack them in a bento box-style lunch complete with mini-pickles, a steamed-rice mound, a chilled tofu cube and a side of candied veggies. The cutlets crunch, the tempura sizzles and the teriyaki bowl is better than average. But make sure to get at least one corokke. Remember that episode in TheSimpsonswhen the Lard Lad came alive and wreaked havoc on Springfield? Super Corokke's mascot, though it smiles, looks ready to waste nearby South Coast Plaza if it's ignored—I'm just saying.
SUPER COROKKE, 675 PAULARINO AVE., STE. 3, COSTA MESA, (714) 444-3418.