Fast forward a few days later, a series of events had led me near North York and its ever-evolving strip of eateries. Late lunch at Hakata it was!
Spirits dampened, we merely decided to request the $13.99 Lunch Combo, which included a bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen and a choice of Karaage Don or Chashu Don. The latter was selected, and the items were split.
The Chashu was tasty, but not as aromatic as I recalled. Moreover, the uneven distribution of fat and flesh proved less spectacular in comparison to other similar establishments. Ultimately, I resorted to the sauce-slathered layer of rice to curb my appetite.
Two pieces of chashu adorned its surface. While undoubtedly the same species as those utilized in the Chashu Don, these slices were, regrettably, less aromatic and more rubbery in consistency.
Service was prompt and friendly, given that peak lunch hours had passed. The downstairs bathroom had been kept to a minimum level of cleanliness, though was unbearably cold. The toilet paper dispenser was wedged into an odd order of the narrow, making it difficult to access. In addition, the paper towel dispenser was nowhere to be found inside the gender-separated stalls, but rather in the corridor.
My Hakata stamp card remains somewhere under the clutter of my desk, though it is unlikely I'll be making the effort to retrieve it given this recent excursion. (Side note: Lunch combos are excluded from stamp collection.)
I browsed the menu in search of their most popular picks, as a Top 5 Drinks list was nowhere in sight within the store. The girls behind the cashier pointed to the menu beneath my nose, noting the common choices as those bearing hearts next to them.
Thankfully, the result was neither too milky nor too sugary. The smooth concoction was indeed brimming with the essence of fresh mango, while the Mango Tapioca contributed a soft chewiness. It should be noted that there were no evident traces of mango flavour in the pearls themselves though. Slightly disappointing was the absence of partially blitzed mango chunks.
In spite of the hefty $6.19 price tag, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the drink and its surprisingly aromatic properties. The black tea base had not been masked by the addition of milk powder, nor had its consistency been altered noticeably. The tapioca pearls lighter and softer than the average starchy add-on, which made for an enjoyable consumption devoid of satiating aftereffects. The substantial portion was another bonus.
Be warned though: Your regular favourites of grass jelly and pudding are not offered here. Abide by "The Virtue of Patience" - the staff's English skills are a little lacking, but friendly enough if you are willing to listen.