Saturday, May 6th. It was one of those days when it was too hot to cook. I suggested trying Ta Ke Ho Me Sushi on Lilac Street in Marikina, and we did just that. From there, we proceeded to Crave Park. But let me do this in chronological order.
Ta Ke Ho Me Sushi
I learned about Ta Ke Ho Me Sushi from the post of a friend on Facebook. I checked out the menu, I liked what I saw and felt it was good that more brave souls are doing creative things with sushi, and never mind accusations that it’s bastardized cooking and nothing more.
The popularity of Ta Ke Ho Me Sushi is based primarily on the cheap prices. PHP99.00 (about US$2.00) for eight pieces of sushi is bound to attract crowds. I read the negative reviews and the ones that got stuck in my mind were about the bad quality of the sushi rice at the Marikina branch. Forewarned, we went anyway. On the way to Marikina, I told Speedy and the girls: Warning. Mixed Reviews. What the reviews were exactly, I didn’t say. I still wanted them to judge the food for themselves rather than be biased.
The plan was to dine in and, if we didn’t like the food, we could proceed to Crave Park. Ta Ke Ho Me Sushi is a pop-up eatery. Its business comprises primarily of take-out (“ta ke ho me” is “take home”, got it?), and there’s hardly any space for dining in. Seeing how cramped it was, we chose to order take-out. We chose the PHP299.00 box good for three to four persons, plus an order of grilled wagyu.
We were planning on taking the food to Crave Park but Sam and Alex opened the boxes as soon as we were in the pick-up, and started eating. I listened as they assessed the food while they ate. Wonderful seasonings, good execution and lovely textures, they said. But the rice sucked. Mushy, said Sam. And the wasabi tasted like powdered wasabi mixed with water to make a paste. When she handed me a piece of sushi, I understood. And that was when I told them that some of the reviews I had read mentioned that the sushi rice at the Marikina branch was really bad.
Japanese ingredients are not cheap. To sell sushi at such low prices, an entrepreneur has to cut corners somewhere. Too bad that the owners of Ta Ke Ho Me Sushi decided to cut corners with the rice. They don’t use Japanese rice at Ta Ke Ho Me Sushi, obviously, or they overcook Japanese rice to bloat the yield. We suspect it’s the former than the latter. Speedy said it was just sinandomeng, not Japanese rice. He’s the rice buyer in the family so he knows his rice well.
It was so sad because good sushi always begins with perfectly cooked rice. The grains must not be sticky but they should not fall apart either when shaped or rolled. The sushi rice at Ta Ke Ho Me was so overcooked that the grains weren’t discernible anymore.
Still and all, at those prices, taking a box of Ta Ke Ho Me Sushi for a potluck affair is not a bad idea at all. Or so I thought when I suggested bringing two of the PHP499.00 boxes to my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner in a dew days. Sam didn’t like the idea though. She said she’d make the sushi herself and Alex volunteered to help.
Not too happy with our Ta Ke Ho Me Sushi experience, we drove to nearby Crave Park.
Wagga Wagga Jerk Chicken
Caribbean food is not mainstream in the Philippines so when I spied jerk chicken, I placed an order immediately. Alex said we could share the plate so that we could order more dishes. I agreed.
The chicken at Wagga Wagga Jerk Chicken was well cooked but underseasoned. The spicy sauce was good though. But the promised plaintain was just an illusion. The banana half on the plate was barely-ripe saba banana, not plantain. And there was too little callaloo for a side dish.
Callaloo? It’s a vegetable dish that originated from Africa and has morphed into countless variants all over the Caribbean. Some variants are similar to the Filipino laing.
As a side note, I read a few reviews of Wagga Wagga on Zomato. Two reviewers said they found it weird that laing was served alongside jerk chicken. I almost burst out laughing. First, because despite the similarity, callaloo is not laing and the Wagga Wagga menu clearly referred to the side dish as callaloo. Second, callaloo is a popular accompaniment to jerk chicken.
Tokyo Tempura Unlimited
Sam ordered two items from Tokyo Tempura Unlimited. Crazy Tempura was served takoyaki style topped with mayo, shaved bonito and shredded nori. Great idea for serving tempura. But there wasn’t a lot of shrimp inside the batter. Sam said they probably use grocery-bought shelled strips of shrimps.
The Mixed Tempura was a combination of shrimp and squid tempura. Sam and Alex shared it.
Considering that there were no leftovers and no serious complaints, I will assume that the girls weren’t unhappy with their Tokyo Tempura Unlimited experience.
The person with the happiest Crave Park experience was Speedy. He ordered a bowl of Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen from Torii Donburi and, after tasting the broth and the pork, I have to admit that he chose wisely. The serving might not be large but the ramen was huge in flavors.
Because there was no interesting dessert at Crave Park, we drove to our go-to dessert place when we’re in Marikina. We’ve had coffee and dessert at Caprisserie along Gen. Ordoñez Street many times before and we come back over and over primarily for the good brewed coffee. The cakes have been mostly hit-and-miss though. On Saturday night, we had two hits and two misses.
Alex’s Tiramisu was good. Light and moist with all the coffee goodness.
My chocolate cake (which according to the girl behind the counter was Caprisserie’s signature cake) was too dense and too dry. Without the frosting, I doubt I would have been able to down a few forkfuls. But even with all the frosting, I still couldn’t manage to finish half of the thing.
If Speedy was the happiest at Crave Park, Sam was the most joyful at Caprisserie. Her slice of Sans Rival was good. I had my doubts when I first saw it. The nut-meringue layers looked too thick and I surmised that they couldn’t be crisp at all. But I was wrong. They were crisp and light and lovely. And Sam was even happier that the frosting wasn’t cloyingly sweet.
Speedy’s Caramel Cake was mediocre, at best. The sponge cake wasn’t bad but the caramel coating was mostly thin custard-with-too-much-flour to be real caramel.
Despite the two not-so-good cakes, we had a good time at Caprisserie. Unlike Crave Park where the noise and heat made proper conversation difficult, we were more relaxed at Caprisserie. There was time and opportunity to banter… All things considered, it was a good Saturday night out.