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Food & Dining Review: Kokoro Mazesoba Gandaria City

>> At A Glance

* Restaurant name: Kokoro Mazesoba

* Cuisine: Japanese

* Address: Gandaria City Mall (Upper Ground Floor), Jl. Sultan Iskandar Muda, RT 10/RW 6, Kebayoran Lama Utara, Jakarta Selatan 12240

* Opening times: Everyday 10.00 – 22.00

* Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

 

>> Ratings

* Overall flavour: 5

Hands down, this place serves the best maze soba I’ve ever tasted in my life. Of course, I only had room to taste one of the soba variations they have on offer, but that alone has compelled me to write a review, so I guess that’s saying something. Kokoro’s flavour profile is truly delightful and will certainly leave you craving for more down the line. This in addition to fresh drinks makes Kokoro Mazesoba an ideal place for day/night-outs with both friends and family.

* Price for portion: 4

It’s a tad bit expensive, but can still pass as reasonable considering the typical pricing in mall restaurants. With no soba/don/zosui bowls over 100k IDR, I personally find that the main dishes are more sensibly priced than the drinks and side dishes (e.g. one small chicken katsu pao alone can set you back 23k IDR). That being said, the prices are not too extortionate to the point that the restaurant loses its competitive edge. Check out the full menu here

* Service: 4.5

Interior of the restaurant.

As the Gandaria City branch is relatively new (Kokoro has another branch in Grand Indonesia), the servers were very proactive in encouraging people to try the restaurant. They were knowledgeable about the menu and able to satisfyingly help customers figure out the best dishes to try depending on their interests. Furthermore, they were relatively alert in refilling ocha and offering additional rice. The only aspect that could be improved is possibly friendliness; a few more smiles here and there can go a long way in amplifying the comfortable atmosphere for customers.

* Venue / ambiance: 5

The place is well-decorated; it’s evident that the furnitures and their placements have been carefully thought out. Moreover, I love the elegant yet cozy Japanese street store feel created by the wooden textures.

* X factor: The perfect combination of tangy vinegar and well-made soba is likely to encourage return visits!

* Overall experience: 4.5

>> Dish By Dish Review

* Shio Mazesoba Chicken for 69k IDR: 5

Such an exciting, mild, and yummy dish! If spaghetti carbonara was to be done with a Japanese twist, then this would be it. The portion is generous and filling; there are adequate toppings and all the ingredients taste super fresh. The grilled chicken slices are tender, moist, and well seasoned, just outright delicious. You can add vinegar and chilli flakes to your liking, and I would certainly recommend adding vinegar because its tang complements the soba really well. The chilli flakes are great for adding a bit of spice, too.

Interestingly, all guests are welcome to free additional rice after they finish their soba to make the most out of the remaining sauce. This is the first time I’ve encountered this at a Japanese restaurant in Jakarta and it certainly creates a novelty effect, but I think many people (including me) would be to full to follow up the soba with rice. Overall, I believe Kokoro has successfully lived up to their slogan, “Not ramen, not udon, it’s a new taste!”.

* Yuzu Punch for 35k IDR: 4

A refreshing way to end a heavy noodle meal. This cold citrus punch topped with passion fruit is a great drink as well as light dessert; its fruitiness is a good change from the soba sauce. However, I’m sure customers would appreciate less ice and more punch, so that the ice doesn’t dilute the fresh flavour of the punch too much as it melts.

>> Other Opinions

* Various reviews on Zomato (in Indonesian and English)

* Various reviews on TripAdvisor (in Indonesian and English, on the Grand Indonesia branch)

* An article by the news outlet detikFood (in Indonesian)

>> Previous Post On This Category: King Mango Thai Neo Soho

Leave a comment below with restaurants you’d like me to review next! 

Are you affiliated with Kokoro Mazesoba? Reach out (christyzee98@gmail.com) and let me know if you’d like me to come back or review any new dishes!

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New Music Fridays: 28 July ’17

>> About New Music Fridays

More fresh tunes are released every Friday than on any other day of the week by artists all over the world, and I’m here to offer some insights on a selected few. Whether it’s Justin Bieber, a local artist I haven’t heard of, or a breakthrough artist releasing his/her first single, feel free to leave comments with any music release you’d like me to keep tabs on.

>> Spotlight Reviews: New songs I particularly enjoyed today

Sober by Cheat Codes & Nicky Romero

Click to listen on Spotify.

  • Lyrics
  • American DJ trio Cheat Codes collaborated with Dutch DJ Romero on this techno pop track about finally realising one’s true feelings when drunk. As the chorus puts it, “I wouldn’t say it sober / But the truth is coming out / I didn’t miss you until now, until now.” The lyrics overall are simple and straightforward, grounded on the relatable human experience of being unable to entirely shake off a person from one’s mind. The high-pitched, autotuned singing sounds haunting yet tormented, as if it’s a symbolism for the way the speaker is haunted by the memories of the person he/she is trying to forget. This is illustrated by lyrics like “God, he almost looks like you in the dark”, “he’s looking at me but he doesn’t have your eyes”, and many more. The drop after the chorus is pretty generic for techno pop songs, and although I can hear a hint of Cheat Codes’ signature remix style, it’s barely enough to truly stand out. Frankly, I think they should’ve sampled and experimented with more adventurous, quirky sounds. That being said, the lyrics and beat come together very nicely to create a strong flow, making this track immediate radio material.

Streets Of Gold by Isaiah

Click to listen on Spotify.

  • Lyrics
  • After representing Australia in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest last May, we haven’t heard much from Isaiah Firebrace this year. That is, until today. This winner of The X Factor Australia released an acoustic pop single titled Streets of Gold, which revolves around yearning the presence of that special someone who feels like home. Lyrics-wise, I love the few juxtapositions in diction found within the song, such as in phrases like “it’s like a dream, but I’m wide awake” and “on a road with no destination.” The repetition of “you” also underlines the tone of longing the lyrics is based on. Furthermore, I think the decision to primarily rely on the plucking of an acoustic guitar to grace Isaiah’s vocals is a brilliant one. With its David-Archuleta-like texture, Isaiah’s voice is very dynamic and pleasant that I reckon I’d be happy just listening to him a cappella. On top of this, the instruments and his voice are so well-integrated that it allows the entire song to sound easy-going and flow rather smoothly; I particularly like the seemingly effortless transition into the chorus. This makes it easy for listeners to lose themselves in the song, as if they themselves are “walking through the streets of gold.”

>> Honourable Mentions: Other great songs released during the week that I wish I have time to review

>> Previous Post On This Category: New Music Fridays: 21 July ’17

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Book Quotes Review: Girl in Translation

>> About Book Quotes Review

>> At A Glance

* Title: Girl In Translation

* Author: Jean Kwok

* Genre: Cultural fiction, young adult, contemporary, coming of age

* The Edition I Read: Paperback (307 pages), published 3 May 2011 by Riverhead, ISBN 1594485151

>> Synopsis by Emma Hagestadt for the British online newspaper The Independent

“Kimberly Chang, the heroine of Jean Kwok’s debut novel, exchanges Hong Kong for New York in the early 1980s. While Kimberly’s mother earns two cents an hour in a sweatshop, her 11-year-old daughter faces the challenge of school: neither speaks English. Kimberly also has the even more difficult business of hiding her extreme poverty from her new friends.

Inspired by her own first hand experience of immigration, Kwok writes with quiet passion about the strange dichotomy of growing up surrounded by the glitz of New York, while being barely able to afford to eat.” (Source)

>> Quotes Review

* “We would be allowed to work and not cause any trouble for her, but she didn’t want us to be any more successful than she was.” – Ah-Kim/Kimberly

This is a description Ah-Kim/Kimberly used for her aunt, who owns the factory she and her mother worked at ever since they set foot in America. The quote stood out to me, because I realised that I’ve had a similar thought before, in that I was willing to help people so long as it doesn’t end up with them being in better positions than me.

As horrid as this sounds, there were a few points in life when this was my gut reaction, and although I eventually re-evaluated myself and adjusted my attitude towards helping out, it can sometimes be difficult to look past personal agendas and be genuine in a society built upon survival of the fittest. This is one of the themes illustrated throughout the plot and, whether it’s migrating to another country or simply moving to a new workplace/school, an idea worth recognising in our daily lives.

* “I never want to love someone like that, not even him, so much that there would be no room left for myself, so much that I wouldn’t be able to survive if he left me.” – Ah-Kim/Kimberly

I think this quote embodies one of the biggest takeaways people can get from the book. Love, particularly young love, can feel all-consuming and overpowering sometimes, up until the point where it’s difficult to distinguish our identities separate from the love we’re feeling or the people we’re loving at the time. Ah Kim/Kimberly’s attitude towards romantic love here is a great reminder that, although those we love can make us feel secure/whole and encourage us to become better people, we are still our own individuals fully capable of self love and fulfilment.

* “You may need to change your dreams […] sometimes our fate is different from the one we imagined for ourselves.” – Ma

Yet another important life lesson from the story! I decided to include this quote not only because its idea is constantly demonstrated throughout the book, but also because it’s simply eloquently worded. It’s often unpleasant at first when life doesn’t unfold the way we expected, but following up on the survival of the fittest concept referred to in the first quote, we can’t afford to fixate on dreams that need evolving. A harsh reality of life, but a reality nevertheless.

The question then becomes, how do we know when to change our dreams or to hold on just a little longer?

>> General Impressions

Overall, the book is an incredibly satisfying read and arguably an instant classic. I read it over a year ago in January 2016, just a couple of months after I moved away from Jakarta to London for university. Maybe this is why I was especially engrossed by the ups and downs of immigration captured through Ah-Kim/Kimberly’s story, but as the quotes I shared above hopefully show, Jean Kwok’s debut novel explores multiple elements of human nature that are supposedly relatable and applicable to everyone from all walks of life.

Book Quotes Review: Girl In Translation #2

I tweeted Jean Kwok (@JeanKwok) with my immediate thoughts on the book and was pleasantly surprised when she replied! || View the original tweet here.

>> Other Opinions

* On the author Janie Chang’s blog

* Various reviews on the book discussion sites LitLovers and Goodreads

Disclaimer For Reviews

Food & Dining Review: Cocoro

>> At A Glance

Image credits: Cocoro

Image taken from Cocoro’s website.

* Restaurant name: Cocoro (Marylebone branch)

* Cuisine: Japanese

* Address: 31 Marylebone Lane, London, United Kingdom, W1U 2NH (also have branches in Bloomsbury, Highgate, and Bayswater areas in London)

* Opening times: Everyday 12.00 – 16.30 and 18.00 – 22.30

* Phone: 02079352931 (Marylebone branch), 02074360660 (Bloomsbury branch), 02083406000 (Highgate branch), 02072219790 (Bayswater branch)

* Website: cocororestaurant.co.uk/en/ (menu available)

>> Ratings

Rating Scale

* Overall flavour: 4

* Price for portion: 2.5

Whilst pricey food is nothing new for Central London, £13 for a single bowl of ramen is more on the expensive side for me. The portion fills you up, but I’ve had ramen bowls with similar or even more content for considerably less (i.e. around £6 – £8).

* Service: 4.5

Many of the waitresses were very friendly and responsive. They were constantly willing to top up our tap water, even without us asking. All of our orders were served nice and steamy within ten to fifteen minutes. Nevertheless, it was quite difficult to call the waitresses for ordering food and requesting the bill as not many of them circulate downstairs. That being said, they were very lenient in letting my friends and I talk for a while after we finished eating, even as we chat towards their closing time! 

* Venue / ambiance: 4

Centrally located in zone one, the place is rather accessible and is close to multiple tube stations (Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Bond Street, and Regent’s Park). The restaurant itself is quite small inside; chairs and tables are laid out on the upper level, whereas horigotatsu seats are available on the lower level. My group took a horigotatsu spot and the lighting as well as layout downstairs successfully establish a relaxed and dynamic atmosphere that is perfect for gatherings. Furthermore, curtain dividers are available between the horigotatsu seats, thus providing some sense of privacy even in an arguably tight space.

* X factor: ramen toppings

Various ramen toppings were served separately on a dish on top of the ramen soup. This serving style allows the freshness of the toppings to be preserved and ultimately enables customers to appreciate the different components all the more. 

* Overall experience: 4

>> Dish By Dish Review

* Tonkotsu Ramen for £13 : 4

Click to enlarge.

The texture of the ramen is springy, smooth, and just amazing. The ramen soup comes with eclectic toppings including but not limited to pork slices, half an egg, seaweed, pickles, and onions. All of the toppings compliment each other and the broth extremely well, although more vegetables portion and variety as well as a whole egg serving instead of half would be much more ideal for the price. Additionally, the broth itself may come off as too salty for some people, and the apparent monosodium glutamate (MSG) aftertaste doesn’t necessarily help either. Overall, what goes into the broth is delicious and tasty, but the Tonkotsu broth itself could use a few tweaks. That being said, this dish is perfectly filling and I would recommend it for rainy days, which is notorious for being abundant here in London!

>> Other Opinions (on the Marylebone branch)

* On a food, travel, and cooking blog called “Eat Noodles Love Noodles”

* On a food blog called “The Boozy Bunch”

* Various reviews on:

Square Meal

>> Previous Post On This Category: Red Cow Carvery

Leave a comment below with restaurants you’d like me to review next! 

Are you affiliated with Cocoro? Reach out (christyzee98@gmail.com) and let me know if you’d like me to come back or review any new dishes!

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