With Vancouver's plentiful options for noodles (see: the number of ramen, spaghetti, and Peaceful Restaurant locations), I was happy to see a brand new type of noodle enter the dining scene in Vancouver. Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba, a concept first opened in 2013 in Japan, has expanded to North America in 2018 with its first location stationed in Vancouver. After hearing positive reviews from the scene, I thought I'd be really smart and avoid the line by coming for a late lunch.
Team Food Soc came here for a late lunch and I ordered the following:
- Zenbu Mazesoba w/ Takoyaki Combo ($18 + $3.89)
By ordering the takoyaki as a combo, it was $3.89 for 3 pieces as opposed to the usual $6.50 for 5 pieces. Looking back at these numbers now, I guess there's little incentive to opt for this combo unless you're ordering specifically for portion control. The takoyaki was marginally below par as far as takoyaki goes in Vancouver. It was cooked fine and had a normal chew, but I personally prefer my bonito flakes to be live and layered in large sheets. The bonito flakes here were nothing more than a pinch of frilly bonito bits. If you're in the mood for a combo, you might find the other options to be more stimulating.
The zenbu mazesoba came with slow-braised pork chashu, raw egg yolk, seaweed, soft-boiled egg, bamboo shoot, seaweed flakes, chives, green onion, minced garlic, grinded saba fish, and house-made multigrain noodles. On paper this was a whopping list of ingredients. In practice, all the ingredients are meant to be mixed together in your bowl.
I would characterize the noodles here to be somewhere between Japanese ramen noodles and Japanese udon. "Soba" would be an incorrect conclusion as soba is distinctively made from buckwheat. In any case, the noodles were a perfect scenario for latching on to the flavours in the bowl. For Chinese noodle lovers, this was similar to the "hot dry" style of noodles ("热干面" in Chinese cuisine) though gussied up with seaweed and egg yolk. If you're a fan of tsukemen, this mazesoba is its spiritual godchild. I think some people will be nervous about mixing a raw egg in but I felt zero discomfort after the meal (I've also watched enough Japanese Style Originator on Netflix to understand raw egg is totally normal in Japanese cuisine).
I did try adding the vinegar and chili flakes provided on the table but didn't feel that anything was missing from the vanilla bowl of noodles and mixed toppings. There was a handy sheet that explained some logistics of the meal. I did try adding the rice looking for an "unexpected taste" but didn't find much difference except in the texture of the grain being consumed (rice as opposed to multigrain noodle).
Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba takes over the space formerly occupied from Tea Wok which was a pretty middling Taiwanese restaurant that had dim lighting and a bubble tea game that fell behind dedicated bubble tea chains like Chatime or Coco. In its place, the restaurant has been fully renovated with a large waiting area that has double duty as a takeout counter.
Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba has seating for about 60 guests in booths, tables, and counter seating. The counters facing the back wall kind of suck because there's only a piece of art on the wall and almost zero opportunity for staff or people-watching. Hopefully you can avoid sitting there.
I thought I'd be really smart and avoid the line by coming for a late lunch. Despite coming at 2:30pm on a Saturday afternoon, there was still a lineup. No reservations to be had here, so we put down our party of 4 and got to waiting. There are only about 15 stools in the waiting area so you might have to stand around or snipe a spot from somebody leaving. It took about 20 minutes for us to get to a table. Food took around 10 minutes to start arriving, so it's on the faster end of sit-down restaurants (and probably indicative that they're churning out these noodles non-stop).
Our server was pretty polite, though prompt, and appeared often enough for us to flag them down when we needed something like the free scoop of rice or the bill (they can split individual bills here). It was relieving to me that the restaurant was adequately staffed for what would normally be a slow hour for most restaurants. For context, some restaurants can't even get enough staff for a regular lunch hour (see: Coquille).
One-liner: A new type of noodle with a great chew and a novel concept in a noodle-centric city like Vancouver
Highlight: Zenbu Mazesoba
Price per person: $15-$25
Would I go back? Yes.