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:
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 TEA, located 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.
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.
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)
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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