Since my return from the West Coast, I had yet to narrate the happenings of my first KCON experience in detail to my mukbang partner. The entire recount took several hours, with the inclusion of an unforeseen delay intertwined within. It wasn't until just before rush hour that we set for late afternoon sustenance.
The first stop was One Ten Cafe, for I craved their Cold Brew Kyoho on a significant level. Not a single image was able to be captured though, since parking is non-existent and I was on the constant lookout for reinforcement crews.
A peculiarly quiet scene at Pacific Mall welcomed us: there was minimal congestion at the Steeles accessway and an abundance of parking spots. We made a beeline for Soul Cafe, which was, again, suprisingly empty.
Unlike my previous visit, the girl at the cashier was speedy with her craft. In under two minutes, she slid a paper container filled to the brim with delicate milk flakes, a heaping scoop of cookies 'n' cream ice cream, and layers of Oreo crumb goodness. Two thin Oreos topped off the concoction in a Mickey Mouse ear format.
I found the dessert incredibly delectable, while ochungg noted that the P-Mall outpost also resisted dissolution better than the original spot.
Forty minutes later, we finally departed with freshly-baked cakes in hand. They were a little less cheesy than the ones found downtown, though exhibited a cleaner, more uniform finish.
The situation was as troublesome as Alchemy's across the street, though perhaps slightly milder given that I hadn't needed to beware of snow on the ground.
Neither of us were particularly hungry as bingsoo had been consumed just two hours prior, so we settled on sharing the Chawanmushi and Chirashi Don.
In theory, steamed egg is one of the easiest appetizers to prepare. However, I personally find it difficult to put my finger on a spot that exceeds expectations after my all-time favourite, Fuji-U, ceased operations. Uniformly smooth, uncracked surfaces require factors such as temperature and steaming time to align consummately, all while resisting the pressures of bulky additions such as crab meat and mushrooms.
A multitude of species filled the medium-sized bowl, ranging from tako to maguro to ebi.
The trio of salmon slices piqued my interest first: each was roughly 1.5 cm in thickness and bore deep incisions at three points along its length. I'm uncertain of the exact purpose of these incisions, for they not only hindered chopstick work but also obscured the fatty tissues of the fish itself. Indeed, its surface appeared luscious, but the body lacked the fat content needed for instant dissolution. It was also on the warmer side, which led me to question its freshness in silence.
Cucumber slices were used in excess; the underlying rice layer was deprived of rice wine vinegar and overall quite bland. Few other specimens were worth mentioning.
Maguro, the most unassuming of the assortment, was delcared the sole stunner of the bowl. Devoid of veiny bits and creases, it disintegrated immediately upon placement in the cavity of one's mouth. The tuna was undeniably the freshest ingredient present, though it still required a small amount of wasabi-enhanced soy sauce for flavour. Most of the others relied heavily on condiments to combat blandess or fishiness, or both.
The two slivers of crab meat were also worth noting, for in place of the pre-packaged starch-laden sticks were stringy pieces of shellfish possessing the very essence of the ocean.
"Is it better than Michi?" ochungg prompted an extensive eye roll.
"Do you even need to ask?" I retorted. Hibiki's rendition was undoubtedly better than Le Cafe Michi's outrageously-priced Cafe au Lait. That being said, I've tasted better in economic sushi joints around Vancouver.
The former was fragrant and creamy - a sure hit with locals; the latter was less bold in terms of flavour but equally as smooth. A more noticeable amount of gelatin was used in the Green Tea Pudding, which may or may not have been the cause of uneven green tea powder distribution along the depths of the dessert. Whole red beans contributed texture to the classic matcha-azuki combination without too much added sweetness.
I'm definitely not rushing back to for a second experience, and with the migraine of a parking situation, that likely won't be an option either.
My order was placed and I headed in the direction of the bathroom. To my horror, the single stall was now filthy with grime lining the window sill and paper towels spilling out from the garbage bin. Since The Alley's move-in, the overall vibe of the cafe has plummeted to rock bottom in a mere matter of 2.5 months. Ugh.
On a more positive note, the Houjicha Soy Milk was extremely satisfying with a bold burst of roasted flavour and soft, comforting aroma. The only downsides was its powdery aftertaste and ineptitude of sweetness level reduction.