As long as I've been shopping there, there has always been mochi at Trader Joe's, but this here is a new iteration of the Japanese-American frozen treat. They've always carried Mikawaya brand, although to be honest, I'm not 100% sure if they still do. Also, from time to time they've released their own flavors—everything from mango to pumpkin to coffee.
But as far as I know, this is the first time Trader Joe's has offered "plain" flavors with their own branding. It should be pert near impossible to screw up vanilla after tackling all those other oddball breeds, right?
Well...my answer to that question is a solid "maybe." And the maybe depends upon your feelings about the rice-based shell of this hand-held dairy dessert. I myself liked it just fine. I must admit it's a little thicker and chewier than almost any other mochi I've ever had, but it's not necessarily worse in my book, simply different. Sonia, on the other hand, hated it.
She felt like the outer mochi shell was too bulky and claimed it made the product taste and feel "stale." It moved independently of the ice cream within and kind of separated from it as you'd bite the mochi ball, whereas other mochi ice creams and shells blend seamlessly. I can totally see where she's coming from. I just didn't mind it as much.
As far as the ice cream, we were both okay with it, but not totally floored. In my opinion it tasted and felt like frozen whipped cream, rather than a rich, complex true vanilla. Fortunately, I really like whipped cream. Sonia, again, wasn't impressed at all, although she felt a little more positive about the dairy elements than the rice elements. She thought it was a bit like McDonald's-esque soft serve...so, you know, not exactly top-shelf, but still cold, creamy, and edible.
$4.49 for six mochi that come in a weird plastic egg carton-like container. Not exactly a stellar value, either. They'll do in a pinch, but we've seen better mochi from Trader Joe's, as well as from other brands. Two stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.
Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.