A while back, I left work late and felt more than a little ravenous. It had been an off-day: nothing went right, whips were cracked, tempers lost, tears shed, and there was just a feeling of nervous tension throughout the whole bloody environment. As a result, I went and had my hair lopped short, bought what had to be a barge-load of chocolate, and scampered down to Tokyo Bubble Tea over at the corner of 30th St. and 2nd Avenue for dinner…and this particular dinner bordered on overkill.
As part of the celebration of sakura [cherry blossom] viewing season in Japan, Tokyo Bubble Tea offered Sakura Bento Trays to its patrons. Each tray featured a salad, a couple pieces of sakura-maki (think California maki but rolled in a sweet pink mixture), a bowl of miso soup, yasai itame (sautéed vegetables), a main / protein course, and a bowl of yakimeshi (fried rice). Throw in an additional charge and you’d get a mug of one of the shop’s signature JCC [Japanese cheesecake] milk teas as shown above. (This one was an Earl Grey, if I recall.)
The o-bento set looked manageable enough in the menu. I erroneously assumed that it would be served in doll-sized portions as in the case of many boxed meals served at Japanese restaurants throughout the metropolis. I did not, alas, expect deep bowls or hefty portions.
The sakura salad and its maki companion both tasted fresh, though I take issue with the amount of disturbingly pink dressing (Kewpie mayo Thousand Island, I think) that was glopped over the salad. It would have been better if it have been served on the side. Nevertheless, once the bulk of said dressing was pushed to one side, the fresh flavours and textures of the salad with its lettuce, red cabbage, mango, and carrot all came into play. The maki, however, tasted like a standard-issue California maki: pleasant, but nothing to write home about.
The soy ginger fish cake, however, was simple yet delicious. Deep-fried dory crumbed tonkatsu-style was lightly drizzled over with the soy-ginger tare with some toasted sesame and pickled myoga (pink ginger) on the side. The fish was toothsome, mildly flavoured, but it was definitely amped up by the subtle-tasting sauce.
The yasai itame was, again, pretty standard but made a crunchy contrast with the tender fish; the sweetness of the cabbage and carrots also brought the bright, gingery taste of the sauce to the fore.
The miso soup served as something of a palate-cleanser and belly soother between every few bites. The fried rice, on the other hand, was good: well-prepared, properly seasoned, and quite filling. Alas, there was so much that I ended up having it all packed up to be taken home and shared with the family. It was worth it, though.
Sakura season is over, of course. We are now at the beginning of momiji [autumn maple leaf] viewing season as summer turns into fall. But Tokyo Bubble Tea has kept this ample set meal on the menu; those with hearty appetites – or those happy to share – would do well to consider this for a satisfying meal and then some.