Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mrs. HowChow Loves Jasmine Bubble Tea -- Why Not Boba? -- At Ichiban Cafe In Columbia

It's Mrs. HowChow here putting in my two cents about a new place in Columbia:

I don’t know about you, but I try to ration the amount of holiday coffee drinks I get from Starbucks. Don’t get me wrong, I love the high-calorie “snacks” as I like to think of them and often reward myself (almost like a small child) with a Peppermint Mocha, Pumpkin Spice Latte or other whipped-cream-laden-sweet chocolate-with-a-bit-of-coffee creation while doing errands or as a break at work.

However, Monday, I decided that my morning coffee intake had already caused my blood to run a little too high on the caffeine meter, so when I needed a little break and snack while doing errands in Columbia, the Ichiban Café provided a yummy alternative. It was also at least 50 degrees – too cold to put the top down on the car, but warm enough to forgo the toasty Starbucks treat.

Ichiban lured me in with the words, “bubble tea” engraved along a border on their storefront, and Mr. HowChow had already mentioned this place to me as a new “to try” restaurant when we felt up for going out to eat sometime soon. I entered Ichiban to be greeted with an overwhelming number of items on their menu, both posted above the counter, as well as provided as a take-out version that I brought home later. The first thing that drew me in was the long lists of “Specialty Drinks”, which included Bubble Teas, Smoothies, and Milkshakes. Although the milkshakes looked especially good, the 50 degree weather swayed me to save that for another day. It also turned out that the Jasmine smoothie may have been a mistake on the takeout menu (the folks who work there said that maybe it was due to some changes on the menu since they opened a few weeks ago).

I tend to pick the unusual things on menus like this, so it was no difficulty to decide on the Jasmine Bubble Tea. (By the way, can anyone help me with this name – I swear that when I lived in LA, everyone, including the stores where I bought this, called it Boba Tea… Bubble Tea an east coast thing?). Anyway, there are a large variety of offerings, from the more common coffee, mango, and chocolate to the more unusual Taro, Bubble Milk, and Papaya. I have to admit that you need to like both the flavor of jasmine (floral and light, though distinctive) as well as those tapioca Bubbles (Boba) to make this a hit.

While I waited for my take-out-Jasmine Bubble Tea, I read the rest of the menu and watched a few people pick up an early dinner (or late lunch) to go. The items looked quite tasty as they were being packed up (you can eat in, by the way, but it was about 4 0’clock, so a little early for eat-in diners). There is even a small sushi bar to pull up a stool and eat in as well. The menu items were diverse – ranging from sushi, sashimi and bento boxes to a very long list of Chinese and Japanese items sure to please many palates (including those who may not care for Jasmine).

The flavor of the tea was lovely and as always, I love the weird little Bubble things that I eat during the drink as well as suck up afterwards with the straw on steroids.

I brought the take-out menu home and definitely plan to bring Mr. HowChow back to try their other offerings.

Ichiban Cafe
6250 Columbia Crossing Circle
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: Ichiban is in the Columbia Crossing shopping center. This is off Rte 175 at Dobbin Road. There is near the Joseph A. Banks and across from the Dick's sporting goods.


Lisa said...

Boba is a Taiwanese nickname describing a female body part that looks like bubbles. It somehow got applied to describe tapioca. I'm guessing that the reason "boba" is used on the West Coast is because there is a larger Asian population over there who understands what it means. They probably had to Americanize the name for us East Coasters... ;)

But anyway, thanks for writing about this place -- I had no idea it was there even though I pass by that shopping center all the time!

bl86 said...

I was disappointed to find out their food is rather bland. I had one bite of the hot and sour soup and didn't eat any more, as did my boyfriend. Their tofu had great texture, but just had absolutely no flavor. Their teriyaki beef was the only thing that was actually good.

Their Thai bubble tea was delicious, though, so I would go back for that. Hopefully it is just growing pains and they'll fix their food to be as good as the drinks.

Sandy said...

Happy to see Mrs. HowChow into writing.

Carole said...

My husband and I ate here last week. We had the shrimp with vegetables, pork fried rice and egg roll combination. We liked it so much that we returned yesterday and had the same thing. I like this place and will try other things on the menu. We thought the food was delicious.

Akiko said...

I just transferred here from Hawaii and bubble tea is huge there with the locals. My favorite flavor is the black milk tea.. Glad to know that I can find some bubble tea nearby me in MD! LOVE your blog. Keep up the good work!

little audrey said...

I <3 bubble tea, so thanks for the heads up about this place! Any other HoCo bubble tea sources? I already know about the mall (ok) and Pho Dat Thanh (bubbles were stale and hard, ugh).

HowChow said...

@AUdrey -- Another option is La Boulangarie bakery in Ellicott City.

little audrey said...

Thank you, HowChow! That's just minutes away from my home. You rock!

Slim said...

I'm there right now. Their black milk tea is pretty good. Still like ten ren better but they were super nice. their passion fruit juice is good though (get it with jellies)

You can get bubble tea at red pearl in arundel, Bon appetit bakery, and a chinese take out place on route 1 near the super fresh (the name escapes me). But I have to say this is the most authentic bubble tea so far in hoco. The lady even told me that if the bubble tea is too sweet next time tell her and she can make it not as sweet for you.

Richard said...

We went for Bubble Tea today which was pleasant but the food was even better. They do lunch specials on Mon-Fri, I had the shrimp tempura udon noodle (soup) and my wife had Chicken Chow Mein. The Chow Mein in particular was great, and all of it looked very authentic Chinese. At $5 per meal, I'd definitely go back.

LisaY said...

Was there today for lunch (4Apr11) and received great service. The bubble tea was made exactly the way I wanted after requesting that it not be too sweet. Had the lunch special "Columbia roll" and it was truly outstanding.

Noticed that there is a Tutti Fruitti frozen yogurt place opening up next door! Sushi and froyo is a great combo.

Melissa said...

I've been making an informal taste testing tour of all the local spots for bubble tea in the area as I love it too. It's good to hear all the new suggestions. You might also be interested in An Loi, which has a good Thai bubble tea (my favorite flavor), in addition to great pho and the new Bon Appetit Bakery and cafe off Frederick rd and rt. 40 in Ellicott City has an interesting red bean boba and several other interesting flavors.