POP! Sakura Saturdays at Tokyo Bubble Tea Resto

Sunny Saturdays are always a delight, especially one spent in the company of good food and good friends.

One Saturday a few weeks back was just that. It started with a meeting at a Japanese restaurant in Katipunan, and ended with a rocking gig somewhere in QC. Here’s what happened:

Bubble, Bubble Burst

Ever since the milktea-pocalypse back in 2010, you can’t turn a corner without seeing a milk tea shop. They usually have pun names, with a “TEA” there somewhere: InfiniTEA, SereniTEA, PubliciTEA, etc. They are also conveniently located next to a condo or a residential area. In fact, a property’s value is now measured by Mt/a (milk tea per area). True story.

Not that I mind. I love milk tea; it is an inexpensive, healthier alternative to “frappes” and other caffeine-laced drinks that does not offer much in terms of variety. With milktea, you have traditional tea flavors mixed with contemporary ones: oreo, reese, butterscotch, milo, salt caramel, dark raspberry, and a whole lot others.

The latest flavor to hit the market is Sakura Milk Tea, a curious concoction that mixes green tea, milk and vanilla essence into a pink drink reminiscent of cherry blossom and “everything japan”. Here’s a picture to give you an idea:

Props if you can see Mt. Fuji

Props if you can see Mt. Fuji

The color alone can pique your interest. I wanted to taste the Sakura milktea so badly that when my good friend Angelo invited us to try it out for free, I immediately jumped at the opportunity (because what’s better than an inexpensive milktea, than a free one?)

We went to a restaurant called TOKYO BUBBLE TEAlocated in Katipunan. From the minute you walk in, you can see that the place went all-out with its Japanese motif: there is a life-sized cherry blossom tree up front, some cherry blossom-painted lanterns, wooden walls, and cushiony benches on the second floor, where you can sit in the traditional seiza style (kneeling, legs tucked in), that you often see Japanese people do in sushi bars.

“It’s like stepping onto the Sakura Season and witnessing the cherry blossom bloom,” says Reagan Tan, owner of Tokyo Bubble Tea restaurant.

Sure enough, it really did feel like an authentic Japanese restaurant. A lady from our group even donned a floral yukata complete with matching wooden slippers. It felt like I was in a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Japan, if it wasn’t for the cargo trucks thundering outside. Thankfully, this was offset by the serene, relaxing vibe inside the resto.

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The cherry blossom pattern was meticulously hand-painted on every lantern

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Where the milk-tea magic happens

Finally, the moment of truth. We were served with a large-sized Sakura Milk Tea MUG. Emphasis on the word “mug” because the serving was HUGE — literally filled to the brim. I had the milk tea shake, which tasted a bit like rose petal-flavored ice cream: fragrant and sweet (maybe even a bit too sweet, but thankfully, sugar levels can be adjusted). The green tea balances things out, while the inclusion of hot pearls add texture to an overall satisfying drink, especially on a hot day such as this. It is priced at PhP 145 for medium, and PhP 155 for large/Kaiju size.

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Big cup of happiness on a sweltering day

But Tokyo Bubble Tea is more than just a milk-tea shop, evident when they served us a medley of Japanese dishes, with a modern twist. First up, the Bulgogi Nachos. This Jap-Mex fusion comprise a heavenly plate of nachos, topped with bulgogi sauce, onions, tomato and sesame seed. It’s a bit on the spicy side, which makes it the perfect appetizer with milk tea. (Bulgogi Nachos: PhP 245)

I'm getting hungry just typing this

I’m getting hungry just typing this

Next, we had the Nippon Ebi Maki. Every piece had a prawn-filled center, and topped with mango and roe. The best part is the mozzarella drizzle that sticks to the maki, easily making this my favorite dish of the day.

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Mozarella and maki should be a thing

The Samurai Burger is a whopper of a meal. The pork patty (which tastes a lot like longanisa) is as big as the sesame seed bun. What makes this dish even more appetizing is the apple sauce and honey mustard dressing, making this equal parts sweet and salty, and all parts savory. It is big enough for sharing (although why would you want to do that?)

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Samurais used to eat this before battle. True story

By this time, we were all so full and yet we can’t turn away from the irresistible dishes that kept coming, especially when they served the Grilled Porkchop on Roasted Tomato Doria. My eyes practically lit up (and I’m sure there was a squeal there somewhere) when I learned what was in this dish: grilled pork, caramelized onion, and melted mozzarella, mixed with rice for a hearty meal.

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Mozzarella heaven once again

The last dish we had was taken from their Korean menu: the classic Bibimbap. Served in piping-hot stone bowl, it had generous servings of ground beef, egg, carrots, zuccini, and onions, mixed with rice. It’s advisable to mix and eat this quickly to prevent the ingredients from sticking to the bowl. With a presentation like that, you don’t have to ask me twice.

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Beautiful bowl of Bibimbap

For desserts, we had Chocolate Caramel and Sakura Mango Roll, the perfect way to end a wonderful meal. IMG_3967

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You can even say this is… “the icing on the cake”. *puts sunglasses and cues CSI music* YEAHHHHHHHH

As a bonus, Angelo and his team had us do an activity, which involved painting a sakura design on a glass. Now, this was the activity I really looked forward to. The food-coma I previously had was immediately gone, replaced by a “Warrior Emil” persona that wanted nothing but to dominate this group activity. Never mind that I was the only guy painting  in our group, or that I was the only one with a serious game face on. I didn’t even do it for the free GCs that the winner will get. I did it solely for pride, because sometimes it takes a glass painting to reveal a man’s resolve.

So I started with some branches and dabbled pink to show sakura flowers. Then in a burst of inspiration akin to Leonardo da Vinci painting Mona Lisa, I painted Mt. Fuji on the background, next to the sakura tree.

I straight-up killed that sakura glass painting. For sho.

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Competitive powers, activate!

Mine's the one at the rightmost, bottom row (or the one with the most blood and tears)

Mine’s the one at the rightmost, bottom row (or the one with the most blood and tears)

But of course, no amount of willpower can trump sheer talent. It was Aencille (who, by the way, is an artist. Just saying ) who won. Meh. I’m not affected or anything. Promise. And Im sure I couldn’t drink from my cup anyway, based on the  amount of acrylic I used. It’s probably enough to make a small painting.

Sakura glass-painting champions

Sakura glass-painting champions. For now.

Despite the upset, I had a grand time!I was able to eat at a nice restaurant, have a delicious meal, and bond with old friends, while making new ones.

Really, on a sunny Saturday such as this, what more can one ask for?

 

For more information, check Tokyo Bubble Tea’s official Facebook page (www.facebook.com/tokyobubbletea) or follow them on Twitter (@tokyobubbletea). You can also visit their branches at SM Megamall, SM North Edsa, Tomas Morato, Trinoma, Eastwood, Katipunan and BGC

 

NEXT: Midnight Music with Vocadin and Ruweda

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POP! Not too cold towards the Cap’t

Captain smoulder

Captain smoulder

I had my doubts about the Winter Soldier, frankly because I HATED the first movie.

Captain America: The First Avenger was a snooze-fest of a film. It’s hard to muck up something set in World War 2, with exciting elements such as Nazis, Alliance troops, airplane dogfights, etc. There’s even Hugo Weaving with a really bad sunburn.

But the First Avenger did a splendid job of ruining all these.

The character of Steve Rogers was as boring as white bread in a basket of pastries. He had no depth, no driving force — just a ‘roided up jock with an overpowered Beyblade.

So when I finally got around to watching the 2nd movie, I was expecting two hours of dull one-liners, wooden characters, and a bouncing shield that defied the laws of Physics (you can almost hear Neil deGrasse Tyson scoffings).

What I didn’t expect was to sit up, mid-film, hand poised over a popcorn bucket, and stare intently at the screen in anticipation. I was fully engrossed with the plot.

Who would’ve thunk? Winter Soldier turned out to be a pretty good film.

I guess the producers learned from past mistakes and finally did a superhero movie that wasn’t all about effects *coughManofSteelcough*. Of all the Avenger movies I’ve seen, Winter Soldier was the only one who didn’t rely on its hero to carry it to the box office; it invested in a beefy plot that revolved around a conspiracy, a breath of fresh air for those fed up with shallow storylines.

(MAJOR SPOILERS INCOMING!!)

Basically, Winter Soldier is about Steve Rogers adjusting to life post-cryogenic freezing. With all his friends dead, and without a solid reason to keep on fighting, he comes down with a bad case of mid-life crisis, about 40 years late (considering he is 90+ years old).

But before Rogers can sort out his issues, friend/pirate Nick Fury (a.k.a. Mace Windu) is shot dead after uncovering a conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. The Captain sets out to discover the truth behind Fury’s last words “S.H.I.E.L.D is compromised. Trust no one.”

A ghost from the past in the form of a Nazi scientist’s brain (because why not?) confirmed Roger’s fears: Hydra operatives have infiltrated the organization and are actually holding the reins. They plan to use S.H.I.E.L.D’s super-weapon to launch a pre-emptive strike against those who would potentially oppose Hydra, killing millions in the process while ensuring that they go unchallenged.

Rogers, along with his team of The-Other-Avengers (Falcon, Black Widow, and Robin Scherbatsky) must race against time to stop Hydra and the missile launch. Barring their way is a highly-skilled assassin called “The Winter Soldier”, who seem to know the Captain from his WW2 days…

Fans of the Captain America comics will definitely know who this guy is

Fans of the Captain America comics will definitely know who this guy is

 

What I love about the film is their treatment of Captain America. He is a capable fighter, but not too overpowered like Thor, Iron Man, or the Hulk.

During fights, the Captain looks like a guy who happens to know parkour AND lives in an MMA ring. His enigmatic fighting style is complemented by acute senses (similar to how Sherlock Holmes analyzes his opponent’s weak points), making it thoroughly enjoyable to watch him kick ass. In fact, the best parts of the film all involve the Captain putting the hurt on a bunch of goons.I’m sure that elevator brawl will go down as one of the best hero fights of all time. OF ALL TIME. #endkanye

 

At what cost freedom?

The film is also rife with political undertones. At one point, Fury and Rogers discuss the moral implications of having a gun on everyone’s head, at the premise of “protecting many”. To this, Rogers points out “This isn’t freedom. This is fear”.

He goes on to say that it is exactly why he fought in the second World War: to prevent a scenario like this from happening. Fury counters that they also had to make hard decisions back then. “Not like this” says Rogers “We always found a way”

The whole plot was an obvious allusion to the NSA wiretapping controversy, a heavy issue to tackle especially for a film not expected to go any deeper than it needs to. Thankfully, the producers went the extra mile. Through the film’s conclusion, they were able to underscore the message that nothing good will ever come out of denying the people’s freedom in exchange for a little security, no matter how noble your cause may be.

Just remember: the Simpsons called it first

Just remember: the Simpsons called it first

 

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Winter Soldier may even be better than the Avengers, in both substance and enjoyment of a hero flick.

The latter is basically a film about big personalities with bigger egos, setting aside their pissing contest to work together and save Manhattan from an alien threat. But in truth, the Avengers weren’t in any real danger from the start — they were taking out dozens of alien soldiers by the minute (Hulk even made a rag doll out of Loki, the bid-bad of the film that was supposed to be an all-powerful god). The only legitimate threat they encountered was from a nuclear missile. Shot by their allies. 

If it wasn’t for the action-packed ending, Avengers would have been tedious. It had a lot of unnecessary dialogue that did nothing to advance the plot (Black Widow and Hawkeye’s 10-minute dialogue, on their past romance), and several cliche lines which actually made the first 30 minutes of the film boring (of course, since this is the Avengers, some nerds will shut down their ability to criticize anything about the film)

Compare that to Winter Soldier’s “The Other Guys” : Falcon, Black Widow, Nick Fury (“surprise, mothafucka!”) and Maria Hill, who actually used their brains to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D and shut it down from within, which by the way is a HUGE sacrifice to make especially since they’ve been part of the organization for years.

None of them had any mystical powers. No Mjolnir, no missiles, or overpowered army-grade weapons (Falcon’s wings are just that; it’s his skill as a pilot that defeats the flying drones. Even then, he was no match for the Winter Soldier). They were human and vulnerable. Captain America even got shot multiple times and was ultimately defeated by The Winter Soldier. But in a touching scene, he was saved by the “power of friendship”, as per Disney’s new memorandum where every ending must be warm and fuzzy.

If this is the current trend, then I have high hopes for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers 2. With all the money they make from movie-goers, it’s about time they gave us a hero flick we deserve — one that is not solely carried on the broad shoulders of its protagonists.

Dayum. You can park an airship on that thing

Dayum. You can park an airship on that thing