Sunday, February 24, 2013

ROC: Mochi Cream - Traditional Japanese Confectionery Reinvented (Extensive Dessert Guide)

For this ROC blogpost, I've made an extensive guide covering each flavor of mochi at Mochi Cream in the Japanese market, Mitsuwa in Costa Mesa, CA. Inside, it's right next to Kobe Fugetsudo, a dessert shop that specializes in high-end, traditional Japanese desserts. It opened last year and every time I checkout after doing shopping at Mitsuwa, I've always been intrigued at the kiosk as their models of mochi pictured above are brightly colored.

They cost from $1.80-2.30 each depending on the flavor. Although some might say that they're expensive, the reason why for the price is that they're made and shipped from Japan. They arrive to their stores in the US frozen. After when a person buys a mochi, the cashier will tell you to wait 15-20 minutes for them to defrost. In addition to having locations all over Japan, they've opened up shops/kiosks in Europe, South Korea, Hong Kong, Phillipines and now here in the US (located inside the larger Mitsuwas).

Even though I'm usually not a fan of dessert, I've decided to make a guide for Mochi Cream's mochis as I thought it would be an interesting divergence from the rest of the restaurant reviews I usually do. I bought one of each flavor that was available. Although there are twenty-four (24) flavors, as shown in the pic before the one right above, the kiosk did not have the Chocolate Banana mochi available which is the only flavor not covered in this guide.

The following will be reviews for each flavor of mochi. I'll put a "*" next to the name of the flavor for the one's I recommend.

Green Tea * - Definitely of traditional Japanese flavors. The sweetness of the fluffy cream counters the bitter tannins of the green tea macha.

Caramel Pudding * - It's great that the caramel flavor isn't overwhelming as expected of Japanese/Asian desserts. The pudding is very custard like. If you aren't a big fan of whipped cream, this is the mochi for you.

Red Sweet Potato * - Mildly earthy and sweet.

Orange Cheese * - Granted the name of the flavor sounds odd to some but we can all be thankful that with the name, they don't mean processed American Cheddar. By cheese, they're referring to the cream cheese component in cheesecake. I assume that they've omitted calling it an orange cheesecake as there's no cake/crust component in the mochi as with some of the other mochis such as Apple Pie and Raspberry Mille-Feuille. This mochi comes highly recommended, especially for those that want more vibrant flavors from their desserts as the orange flavor is bright and refreshing. With the whipped cream, one of the others I've tried it with says it tastes like an Orange Julius. There are also bits of orange rind inside as well.

Black Soybean Flour (Kinako) * - Like the green tea, this flavor is also uniquely Japanese. The black soybean flour powdered on top definitely makes it standout compared to the other ones. It's sweet and earthy at the same time.

Green Soybean - There are bits of soybeans within. Although not noticeable at first, there is a strong soybean flavor afterfinish.

White Chocolate - The first thing we've noticed was how much delicately softer this mochi felt compared to the other ones. There are small chunks of white chocolate inside. The whipped cream complements well with the white chocolate.

Black Sesame * - Strong black sesame flavor typically found in Chinese desserts, texturally nutty with the right amount of sweet. It was one of our personal favorites.

Peach Yogurt * - Strong peach aroma. It has that unique white peach flavor that's found in Japanese candies and soft drinks such as Calpico White Peach. I have to say that this one was my absolute favorite out of all of them.

Sakura * - This was the first mochi from the shop I've ever tried a month back.  The sakura, or cherry blossom flavor, is very floral, almost perfume like. Visually, it's pretty in pink while maintaining its traditional composition as this flavor is too one of those traditional Japanese flavors.

Honey Cranberry - There's actual chunks of cranberries within it's jam that carries a strong cranberry flavor.

Double Mango * - I love how there's chunks of mango which makes this mochi stand out. It comes out as natural and fresh.

Red Bean (Azuki) - This is the most standard, traditional flavor for mochi. It has a nice amount of red bean which doesn't make it overwhelming.

Blueberry Yogurt * - I really like this one as it has one of those distinct Japanese takes on the flavors we're used to such as the flavor of the peach yogurt mochi I mentioned earlier. The tartness of the yogurt complements well with the blueberries. I definitely felt some seeds from the blueberries.

Apple Pie * - The first thing I've noticed with this mochi was it's cinnamon flavor. Aside from the apple chunks, what's really surprising is there's a hard sugary, flaky crust within the mochi that serves as a nice touch.

Cafe au Lait - It has that sweet coffee flavor that you'd find is Japanese coffee or coffee candy.

Sweet Potato - One of the most intriguing looking out of the lineup. Although very subtle at first, the sweet potato flavor starts to kick in as an after taste.

Darjeeling * - This tea flavored mochi has a very strong floral scent and flavor.

Rum Raisin - There are bits of raisin within. Also there's a strong rum flavor as if might seem that they added Bacardi rum right before shipping.

Chocolate * - I really liked how they really topped it with cocoa powder. With the whipped cream, it tasted as if I was eating chocolate soft-serve ice cream or a Wendy's Frosty.

Caramel Macchiato - It has a unique flavor as the caramel melds with the coffee flavor.

Houji Tea (Houji Cha) - It tastes as if the tannins from tea were to mix in with the black soybean flour.

Raspberry Mille-Feuille * - The raspberry jam is sweet. In addition, like with the apple pie mochi, there's a flaky, crunchy crust that one person in the group said it was like "fireworks in your mouth".

Although I didn't completely each any of the mochi's whole, it was pretty rough eating all of those mochis of different flavors albeit that it can be a fantasy for some of you. It felt like a marathon even though I sat on my ass the entire time; je me sens comme un fat ass (Translation: I feel like a fat ass). Fortunately during the time of tasting and taking photos, one member of the group was generous 
enough to provide green tea to wash down the sweetness of the Japanese desserts, even though they're much less sweeter than American/European desserts in general. Also, these sort of desserts are meant to be eaten with tea anyways. After having all of those sweet desserts consecutively, I had to wash all of that down with some straight Lapthroaig Quarter Cask Whisky that's extra peaty as it was double cask matured and 48% alcohol. It's as if I'm Ron f***in Swanson from the NBC show "Parks and Recreation" granted he drank Lagavulin 16 year neat instead which too is an amazing peaty whisky.

Granted no responsible confectionary store like Mochi Cream would want a person to eat all of these mochis as once. In addition to the price factor, I can imagine the most of you only getting a couple of them at once. I would then recomend getting the Peach Yogurt, Orange Cheese and either the Sakura or Black Sesame mochis. What I really like about Mochi Cream is that they actually use the ingredients of the flavor for each mochi such as having bits of soybean with the Green Soybean mochi. I hope this guide will help you select which flavors to try as I imagine the majority of you haven't tried it yet but were curious in doing so.