Sherman's Food Adventures: Kokoro Mazesoba (Ironwood)

Kokoro Mazesoba (Ironwood)

Okay, I've been to Kokoro Mazesoba on a few occasions, starting with their Downtown location.  Then I made it out to their Burnaby spot afterwards.  For those who don't know, they specialize in mixed noodles with a variety of toppings.  There is no soup with this and once you are finished, you can get a bowl of rice to soak up the remaining sauce and ingredients.  Jackie and I visited the new Ironwood location in Richmond recently and we did a good overview of the menu.

To begin, let me talk about their drinks first.  We had the Blue Hawaii Lemonade, Strawberry Iced Latte, Kokoro Grape Refresher and Japanese Crown Melon Milk.  These were all non-alcoholic and fruity.  I found the lemonade and refresher to be the refreshing as it helped us eat more food.  The strawberry iced latte was sweet and milky while the crown melon was also milky and mildly sweet.  It was the most aromatic of the bunch.

So with the appies, we got them all including the 10 pc Pork Gyoza and Takoyaki.  Served in the cast iron pan it was prepared in (maybe not this particular one because it is upside down), the gyoza were nicely seared with a crispy skirt.  Dumpling wrapper was fairly thin and had good elasticity.  Inside, the pork filling was juicy and tender.  As for the takoyaki, it was pretty typical with a slightly crispy exterior giving way to a soft interior with bits of chewy octopus.

We also got the Ebi Mayo as well as the Karaage Bao.  I enjoyed their ebi mayo as the shrimp were quite large and prepared properly.  They were lightly battered and fried until crispy.  The shrimp were meaty and not overdone either.  The best part was that the coating of sweet mayo was not overdone, so enough for flavour and moisture without a gross amount.  So the steamed bun was filled with 2 large pieces of crispy chicken karaage.  The meat was juicy and seasoned but the spicy glaze and chili mayo added some more impact.

On the topic of karaage, we got both the Spicy Chicken Karaage and the Chicken Karaage.  Well, the spicy karaage was coated with far more glaze than the one found in the bao, so it was much spicier and of course saucier.  Chicken was the same as expected.  For the regular chicken karaage, the batter was predictably more crispy due to the lack of sauce on the outside.  The chicken was still juicy, but less flavourful.  However the side of chili mayo did help with things.

Getting to their specialty, we did a comprehensive overview starting with one of their basic bowls in the Shio.  This featured their made-fresh daily multi-grain soba topped with slow-braised pork chashu, bamboo shoots, nori, spinach, minced garlic, ground saba, green onion and sesame.  Due to the amount of green onion, that was the dominant texture and flavour.  Hence, the bowl was green-tasting and "fresh".  The noodles were chewy while the pork was super soft and tender.  Amping up things, the Zenbu consisted of the same ingredients except adding minced pork & beef, egg yolk, half soft-boiled egg, chives and nori sheets.  This was much more fulfilling in terms of meatiness and silkiness.  The minced meat and egg yolk coated the noodles creating both texture and flavour.    For me, this is my personal favourite whenever I dine at Kokoro Mazesoba.

Onto two very different bowls from the previous ones, we had the Carbonara and the Mentaiko Cream.  With the carbonara, I personally do not think the red onion is necessary (and you can omit this if you want) because it is so strong that it overwhelms the delicate flavours.  So with me picking out the onion, the carbonara was quite tasty.  Creamy and cheesy while having chewy noodles and the tender chashu.  As for the mentaiko, it was similar to the shio except with the addition of fish eggs and egg yolk.  This of course made this silky and briny.

Next we moved onto the Salmon Mazesoba and the Chicken Karaage Rice Bowl.  So for the salmon, it was same components found in the shio except with the addition of bite-sized raw Atlantic salmon and an egg yolk.  As you can imagine, this was a very subtle-tasting bowl with the umaminess of the ground fish and nori.  For something different, yet the same, the rice bowl featured many of the same things as the zenbu except with the addition of chicken karaage and mesclun greens.  I personally liked the minced meat and egg with the rice much more than the noodles.  I found it a better match where the rice soaked it up and hence had more impact.

Our last 2 items were their soup ramen including the Vegan Ramen and Tamago Ramen.  Interestingly, I thought the vegan ramen was quite good with a thick broth that was quite flavourful and creamy.  Could really taste the tomato and the depth of the soybean.  Seared tofu had a nice texture to it too.  As for the other, it was a typical pork bone broth which had good meatiness, yet wasn't heavy.  The pork chashu was fatty and tender while the tamago had a custardy yolk.  We had the thin noodles and they were al dente.  You can get more noodles if you want too.  So after all these dishes, it was pretty obvious to us that many of the components are similar.  However, that isn't a bad thing. With just a switch of some ingredients, the bowls taste remarkably different.  My favourites were the Zenbu, Chicken Karaage Rice Bowl, Carbonara and *gasp* Vegan Ramen.  Lots of choice and with the option of adding a bowl of rice to sop up the remaining sauce or add more ramen to your bowl, you won't leave hungry.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Lots of choice
- Interesting flavours
- Unfortunately we didn't get to have any, but their Hokkaido Milk Ice Cream is so good!

The Bad:
- You have to like onions of all kinds here (but you can opt to have them omit it)


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