We visited the second year's run briefly in the evening after I returned from KCON LA adventures. Stage performances were more varied this time around. The vendor count has also expanded. This was the year I discovered Momo Tea.
When I had learned of Momo Tea's pending appearance at this year's Japan Festival some few months ago, I immediately relayed this information to orangecane.
Secondly, it's close to home.
Moreover, parking is free and so is admission (unlike in Toronto).
But a quick drive around led to the discovery that most participants weren't familiar with the area at all.
These small freebies, while tricky to transport in our pocket-less attire, proved themselves useful in shielding our vision tools from ruthless UV rays and keeping us cool while roaming the grounds.
We then moved onto Kinka's booth for takoyaki - four doughy spheres for five dollars - then Ichifuku for orangecane's Karaage Dog. Ramen from Ryu's Noodle Bar, cold ramen from Touhenboku, Kakigori from Ichifuku, and other intriguing varieties were also on offer.
We made our way over to the west side of the field, closer to fountain area, to take a look at the speciality vendors. Both of us were due for a matcha restocking.
Present were the flavours of the original Toronto Nohohon - the bold, flavourful base that I remembered paired with soft, chewy tapioca. The refreshing bits of fine grass jelly were a wonderful touch and, oddly enough, very reminiscent of Boba Guys' Thai Iced Tea. It was none of that disappointing New York grittiness. The traditional hot water dispensers were also observed on this occasion.
Single pancakes were priced at $8, while a stack of two ("Double") rang in at $15. In order to secure one of each flavour, one was required to relinquish a total of $16 for a duo of Matcha Tiramisu and Raspberry and Caramelized Banana.
Looking back, it would have been inescapably better off had I spent the remaining physical funds on packs of Take and Matsu.
We waited a total of fifteen minutes under the blazing sun to place our order, then received two different coloured tickets to retrieve the requested items later on. The wait time estimated fifteen minutes, or so we were informed at first.
Instead of stalling about the stall, in the dreadful heat, I suggested searching for shade about the pillars of the Civic Centre. Once fifteen minutes had passed, I returned for a status check. The staff appeared clueless when I inquired about my ticket numbers, and even dared to steer me into the direction of the depressing, winding lineup of all-too-patient patrons.
"Fifteen to twenty minutes!" He said with a smile, presumptively as if I hadn't already waited a quarter of an hour to reach the cashier and another quarter in anticipation of our sweet, jiggly treats.
Twenty minutes later, I went back.
"Did you call these numbers?"
The man who had been responsible for the cash box had abandoned his post at the front and fully adopted a front-line position.
"I've waited fifteen, then you told me another fifteen." The volume of my voice began to climb without much of my knowledge. "I waited twenty. It's been forty minutes!"
The man was visibly frazzled, but the gears were turning fast. He assured me, "You are next!"
He looked over at the girl behind the griddle.
"How much longer?" He lightly demanded.
"...five minutes?" she responded calmly, with a gentle tilt of the head.
The man turned back to me, "Next batch! Five more minutes, okay?" He held up a hand, waving all five fingers, then matched his gaze to mine for a sense of sincerity.
"Alright." I grudgingly nodded before firing off an update to my partner-in-crime.
Even in the face of chaos and the constant demands for order cancellations, it was surprising that each serving managed to maintain the same degree of visual appeal. It is crucial to note that these stunning features could only be seen within the first minute of delivery. The creations were rendered susceptible to extreme heat and strong breezes the very second one stepped away from the tent and into the sun.
Matcha Tiramisu was tasted first. Admittedly, the cream topping tasted very mascarpone-like. It was velvety and slice, with a hint of cheesiness. Paired with the pancake though, it was found to be overbearing. The popular Japanese confectionery's profile was light and delicate, with scattered clumps of whipped yolk embedded between fragile pockets of cooked meringue.
On its side was a highly potent shot of runny matcha sauce. Extremely bitter as it was, there was not a shred of grassiness. Put simply, it wasn't great, and definitely not entitled to its eight-dollar price tag.
It was reasonably deduced that the order was undeserving of any amount greater than six dollars.
Kinka Izakaya's Takoyaki was unlikely to be the culprit: each of us merely consumed two bites each. Moreover, it had been cooked in advance even at our time of purchase.
Our gut feeling hinted at Fuwa Fuwa - in the most literal possible way. Their stall had been situated in direct sunlight, and given the hot, humid conditions, we didn't doubt that their perishables had been left out and forgotten amidst the tumult. With eggs and dairy at stake, the eatery ought to have been more thorough with their ingredient handling and storage procedures.
Chatime's Tea Mousse had sent me to the hospital for anti-nausea fluids and IV, in addition to leaving me bed-ridden for several congee-filled days.
But I am not grateful for the countless pangs of excruciating stomach pains and persistent need for bathroom runs.
Since this incident, I will not be recommending Fuwa Fuwa, not making any attempts to visit their standalone store. Their signature creations were nowhere more impressive than Café Bon Bon, and the sauces were honestly mediocre.
I await next year's with anticipation (and only minor concerns in regards to climate and parking availability).