This all started with my quest to find out about Royal Milk Tea and it ended up me learning a thing or two about Japanese breakfasts.
I also ended up acquiring a taste for … listen to this … NATTO!
It was about a month ago when it suddenly occurred to me that there are a lot, I mean A LOT, of food blogs out there. Many of them are new and I was no where near keeping track of who is who. That was what set me down the path of creating the mother of all blogrolls for Vancouver area food blogs. I have 93 blogs listed so far and I am sure there are even more out there.
So during the past few weeks, I paid a bit more attention to what’s out there. I came across a few blogs I had never heard of before and they are really good and well written ones. One of the blog is called My Munchie Box. It was in the My Munchie Box’s very first post I came across the mention of the Royal Milk Tea.
Royal Milk Tea? Interesting. For some reason, that kept ringing in my head. I kind of got obsessed on find out about it. I googled it and got lots of confusing answers. There were no entries on Wikipedia.
So I turned to chowhound. I thought that someone on chowhound would know. I posted this question on chowhound … and indeed, someone DID actually know where I could get to try Royal Milk Tea.
It made me want to alter my dine out priorities to check out the Marulilu Cafe. And that was what I did. Suanne and I went for breakfast at Marulilu with a specific mission to:
- try Royal Milk Tea
- have a traditional Japanese breakfast, and
- learn to love Natto
Marulilu is located on Broadway, in Vancouver and near intersection with Cambie. It is just across the street from the Broadway-City Hall train station as a matter of fact.
Easy to locate. It is simple … white washed outside with the words Marulilu Cafe. There are metered street parking but since we were there on a weekend, there were lots of spots.
They have quite a selection here. Besides the Japanese options, they also have good old Canadian breakfast. We ignored those. Our mind were already set on what we wanted. Yeah, you can click on the pix above to blow it up larger.
Don’t know about you but I just can’t read menus like those above. I can stare at that for a whole minute and yet I don’t really know what I am reading, much less what I want.
It’s a small restaurant. Seats about 22 people at max. The place does look like it started off very nice and organized and over time it began to be rather disorganized.
For someone who is a stickler for “a place for everything and everything in its place”, the boxes of supplies stacked at a corner, spilled sugar on the counter, strew newspapers and those sort of things jumps out at me. It kind of bother me … and no … I know it is NOT important. It’s just me and I am just saying.
I can see it is because they are understaffed. The two waitresses were very sweet and polite — very typical of Japanese hospitality. But I can also see that they are frazzled trying to keep up.
Understandably too it is a limited table service setup. You walk up to the counter, make your order, pay at the counter and then the food gets served at the table. So, yeah … service was kind of slow. It took a while for the food to come but it was not a problem for us. We have lots of time on our hand.
Our first order was very simple. It has to be Japanese style breakfast which is $8.49.
So I did my research before I came to Marulilu. I learned that Japanese breakfasts consists of two very important item — the rice and the miso soup. I read somewhere (can’t remember the link now) that traditionally the rice is to be presented on the left and the miso on the right. Is there any truth to that?
Yeah, it just happen that they serve it that way to us. A coincidence?
And of course there is the NATTO, a common delicacy for breakfast. Marulilu gives their customer a choice of natto or tofu because they know that not many people will like natto. They did ask me if I wanted natto or tofu — with indignation in my voice, I said “natto please”.
There are other items common on the Japanese style breakfast I read about and it is the presence of … grilled salmon and plain omelette.
The plain omelette is just plain. I am not expecting anything fancy actually.
And the grilled salmon is dry.
The nikuyaga is served on the side. It is some kind of potato dish which is sweetish. I like this a lot.
The miso soup is well, miso soup.
I saved “the best” (natto) for last.
Say, what kind of a eater are you? Do you eat the best stuff on a plate first … or do you eat the unexciting items first, leaving the best for last?
I am the type who will leave the best for last.
For drinks, Suanne had Matcha which is $4.55 for a 16oz cup. Yeah, the green one on the left.
Suanne mentioned that it was not at all sweet but that it was just sweetened by the milk. She must have sugar with her morning beverage but she did not add any sugar lest she ruins “The Matcha”.
Me, Ben, had the Royal Milk Tea … also 16oz and costs $3.50.
Hey it was just a tea bag. I could have made this at home. 🙂
The waitress told me this could be served hot or cold and asked me how I wanted it. I don’t know. I asked her how does the Japanese traditionally serve this. She said sometimes they serve this hot and sometimes they serve this cold. Fine. I then asked her how many percent of their customers have this hot or cold? She said half go for hot and the rest go for cold.
I guess I would never find out from her and so I just ordered it hot.
It was nice, it is frothy and has a floral fragrance to it. Yeah, I could drink this again next time but seriously, I felt it was too frothy and that I think half the cup was all froth.
Suanne had the Okonomi Yaki which is $7. It is a really big serving. Certainly it is too big for breakfast.
Okonomiyaki is not normally this thick, is it not?
This one is like 2 cm thick and very doughy. So we did not quite find this very nice, to tell the truth. I guess this is just one of several variants of okonomiyaki.
Suanne was already giggling as I took a deep breath after I had finished off all the other items on the Japanese Style Breakfast. The last and the best was the natto.
I had bought natto to try once before. Not too long ago. I got it from the Japanese store and they all come in little Styrofoam boxes. I tried it once and I hated it. It was awful. I asked my Japanese friend afterwards about it and they said I should add in “other stuff” to sort of even out the nastiness.
Oh boy, am I glad to see that there are “other stuff” served with the natto. The “other stuff” are chopped onion, mustard, sesame oil and soya sauce.
I took a deep breath. Peeled the plastic cover.
Yeah, it smell just as bad as I remembered it.
And the sticky gooey thingy still looks as disgusting.
This is after all rotten soybeans but in order to meet the local health codes, they call it fermented soybeans.
As I was stirring it in the bowl supplied, it made even more sticky strings … it made it even more unappetizing.
And the smell, it got a bit more unpleasant too.
While Suanne continues to giggle, I was thinking how anything like this could end up being a delicacy. It is one of the mysteries in life I will never figure out.
Suanne reminded me that she did not order this and that it is I who ordered this. Yeah, she was telling me don’t pester her to try this too.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls … I would like to report that as bad as it looked initially and as awful as it smell, once I put in the “other stuff”, it did not look quite as bad after all.
And it did not smell quite as bad too.
And it did not taste quite as awful too.
Actually, it was quite alright. The first bite was the hardest but every subsequent ones gets better.
Mind you, I am not saying this is the most delicious food I had ever tried. It is NOT by any stretch of imagination.
It is just that I managed to finish half of it which, to me, is a yardstick that says I have finally acquired the taste for natto.
Moreover, I managed to cox Suanne to try ONE bean.
It was an interesting breakfast. Nothing stellar but if you have never tried having an authentic Japanese breakfast before, I guess Marulilu is a good place to try.
Excuse me while I go look for a pin to fasten the NATTO badge on my foodie sash.