Everyone’s favourite saucy, soupless, Japanese udon has updated their menu for the first time in the five years, and we were invited down to see if we can tell the difference.
Starting September 1st, 2023 Kokoro promises their largest menu overhaul with new Mazesoba and ramen options, lower price points, and improvement on their current Mazesoba recipes. Beef is now being added to bring out extra fragrance in their bowls, and their chashu recipe has been improved with better quality cuts and seasonings. You also now have the option to make any bowl regular or extra spicy, and all size up upgrades are free. You pay the same price for a regular sized bowl of noodles or XL, XXL, or XXL!
As an overview, I honestly couldn’t make out much of the above mentioned flavour improvements, and found the food as tasty as it always was. But that may be because I was already a fan walking in.
We were visiting their newest location at Metrotown’s Station Square. And the venue was bustling with bodies coming in and out, wanting to try the update for themselves. The decor was themed like a train station, with the kitchen’s pass resembling the front of a trolley, and directional signs marking the dining area. Even going towards their washroom felt like a walk on a train platform.
As a group of six adults we were able to order majority of the menu, starting with appetizers and drinks.
Given how pungent their garlic based dishes are, I highly recommend ordering their bagged beverage. Served in resealable, travel ready pouches. They help to cut into a lot of the heavier, fattier flavours and leave your palate refreshed and ready to go back for more.
My go to is their Japanese crown melon milk. A creamy and slightly sweet cantaloupe milk. Very refreshing.
They also have a Strawberry latte, where you stir up to blend the strawberry puree with the milk itself.
The Tokyo iced milk tea is a classic, brewed with Japanese premium black tea.
And for something without milk the Blue Hawaiian lemonade is tart and refreshing in a fun hue.
The Chicken karaage is juicy fried chicken served with fresh greens, and paired with either a spicy mayo or honey mayo for dipping. We went with the latter and enjoyed what the sweetness of the cream added to the the tender and crispy boneless bites.
Their Pork Gyoza are handmade pork potstickers pan fried crispy and served in a cast iron pan. A tasty staple.
Takoyaki is octopus balls in a special
Japanese sauce. Doughy and salty balls that are easy to pop whole into your mouth. I am a fan of the treat, but always find that there is not much octopus in the mix and I am left searching for a mention of it with my tongue. And that was the case here.
Agedashi tofu is another Japanese small plate staple. Deep fried tofu in soy based sauce, topped with green onion and katsuobushi. Their more neutral flavour made them the perfect in between, break bites.
Another familiar dish is the Ebi mayo. Deep fried crispy shrimp tempura served with a japanese honey mayo sauce. Eat this one quick, as by the time we got to it, we found that the heavy cream had cause the once airy crispy shell to go flat and doughy.
For mazesoba the group ordered several bowls in all the sizes to be able to compare and contrast. Starting with the default size of the Zenbu Mazesoba in mild. Slow-Braised Pork Chashu, Minced Meat (now with both pork and beef), Runny Egg Yolk, Seaweed, Soft Boiled Egg, Sesame, Bamboo Shoot, Seaweed Flakes, Chives, Green Onion, Minced Garlic, and Grinded Saba Fish. All over there in house made Multi-Grain Noodle. At $20 for any size you definitely got your monies worth. Out of all the bowls today, this was definitely the sauciest with plenty of fragrant green herbs. I did note that the inclusion of beef and less pork made the dish as a whole less fatty and more flavourful.
In contrast this is the Mentaiko Cream Mazesoba in the largest XXL size. Mentaiko (salted pollack roe), Slow-Braised Pork Chashu, Runny Egg Yolk, Seaweed Flakes, Spinach, Green Onion, Minced Garlic, Japanese Cream Sauce, Grinded Saba Fish, Sesame, and Multi-Grain Noodles. The inclusion of the roe had this dish more fishy, in a good way. Tasty with another depth of flavour that melded well with the other nine ingredients and toppings.
And we had to try their new Carbonara Mazesoba, pictured is the difference between XL and XXL. This is Slow-Braised Pork Chashu, Runny Egg Yolk, Spinach, Onion, Japanese Carbonara Cream Sauce, Black pepper, Sesame, Parmesan cheese, and Multi-Grain Noodle made in House. Japanese meets Italian with the cheese and cream. A very lush dish that did feel one tonal. The sides and topping were necessary to help change up the taste.
And as for ramen they have switched to using Ichiran style ramen from Fukuoka city. They are known for their specialization in tonkatsu bone broth ramen.
You can also upgrade any regular bowl of ramen. But instead of coming to the table as a larger bowl, you are able to request up to three servings of extra noodle, should you be left with any broth to have with it. Truthfully, I liked the option, but if you are are not going to get any more broth that usual, it seems unnecessary. I finished my bowl, but didn’t have enough soup to go a second round.
I recommend getting the Chashu ramen which has the most pieces of their Slow-Braished Pork Chashu and to it add on an egg. I find I needed the toppings to have in conjunction with the otherwise plain Pork Bone Broth, Green Onion, and Thin Ramen Noodle.
And be sure to save room for dessert. Their popular Hokkaido Crème Cone is the perfect palate refresher, but with limited quantities available daily. Organic milk soft serve ice cream made by Japanese Nissei machine. Available in a cone or cup, the former is made from a light butter biscuit, similar to the Danish ones you get in those blue tins, that Asian moms then repurpose into sewing kits.
As a highly satisfying bowl of noodles I often crave the one of a kind flavours of Kokoro’s Mazesoba. And I have never been to any location and not liked their food, and this visit is no exception. Therefore this “improvement” and “largest menu update” to date came as a surprise, and not all that necessary. Although as a fan of the brand, it is nice to know that the owners have the goal of being better and doing more for their customers in mind. I am sure I will be back sooner than later and enjoy myself just the same.
Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba, Metrotown
6049 Silver Dr, Burnaby, BC V5H 4L6