Sumoboo

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Sumo Boo is exploding like a small sized nuke these past few months. I don’t know whether its because shaved ice based dessert is so popular these days or Sumo Boo’s signature dog shaped ice cream that’s just so Instagram worthy. Whatever it is, the line outside its newly opened cafe in Taman Anggrek Mall is simply crazy, noisy, and very sensitive. A timid looking waitress is trying to calm the costumers in a futile effort while kids running around with their nannies attracting several raised eyebrows.

I squeeze into the line and say my name out loud to the waitress, she looks down and politely say I need to wait for a few minutes. When I ask her how many people left before my turn, she looks up apologizingly and says nine more people. Nine! I brace myself for 30 boring minutes staring at lucky people in their small seats enjoying shaved ice and something like a hotdog.

Fortunately, my stare strategy works. People quickly come and go, acknowledging the impatient line waiting for their seats like a bunch of hungry ogres in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. Before I know it, the waitress calls my name in panic and point at small seat near the entrance. Not the best seat in the house, but this is not the right time to complain about anything.

Like any other cute cafes that have been popping around in Jakarta, Sumo Boo pays a lot of attention in cuteness. Small tables with wooden seats and cute pillows, pictures of their iconic dog shaped ice (its everywhere!), Chinese lanterns that fill the ceilings like oversized jellyfish, and a small kitchen window giving a glimpse of busy cooks and waiters trying to get the orders right. All those small cute stuffs are great for selfie lovers and socialites, but for commercially success cafe? Bad choice. Costumers are pilling up here and there. Some people have to sit together in a small poor chair, and my poor neighbour is trying to squeeze his huge bag under the table. I have never felt luckier in my whole life, able to score a whole table for myself. Such a shame though, Sumo Boo looses its purpose as chic comfortable hang out place for high school or/and college students.

All of the serves are crazily busy, but I managed to stop one and ask for menu book. Actually, calling it a menu book would a little bit out of place. The ‘book’ is one piece of laminated carton with elegant typography and small illustrations of what I can expect. Not really helping, if you ask me.

Shamefully, my attention doesn’t exactly go right into dessert section. Waiting for a long time in line can make you extremely hungry. I decide to try their Tori Naked Ramen (chicken) and Buta Naked Ramen (pork). Each comes with spicy scale from zero to thirty, with zero being the least spicy. Not wanting to take too much risk, I go with 5. Sounds pretty fitting. For dessert, a casual-looking Kakigori with double green tea ice cream.

No judgment please. I am in no carbs left behind review.

Even with so many people ordering at the same time, Sumo Boo service can be considered fast and polite. The servers look tired and not really wanting to smile anymore (which is a very human thing), but they do their best and no one snaps or throws a huge temper tantrum. A lesson for those who are still waiting in line….

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The first one to come to my table is Kakigori. One medium bowl of shaved ice with sweet red bean paste, a bunch of different size mochis (Japanese traditional marshmallows), one plain yellow pudding and of course, two small scoops of green tea ice cream. Maybe because there is too much going on in the kitchen, but the presentation is a bit chaotic and dirty. Chocolate powder spilling around inside the bowl and the mochis look like they’ve been crushed by something. I know ‘speed’ and ‘taste’ rule above ‘look’, but it would be nice, if they put a little more effort in presenting their own dishes.

Now, how about the taste?

With sadness, I have to say it’s surprisingly bad.

The shaved ice tastes rough and plain in my mouth with tiny popping flakes from Milo chocolate powder. The pudding is too plain even with the help of green tea ice cream, which is also slowly fading in my mouth without giving enough good impact. The mochis are overpowered by all those messes, providing only chewy texture from time to time. There is just not enough harmony in this so-called Kakigori.

The only good thing that helps this dish is probably the red bean paste. Smooth, sweet and still maintains its natural nutty flavour; it helps harmonising the entire dish. Still, it’s not enough to make me recommend Kakigori to any of you. To be honest, Hong Tang (check it on Google!) does much better job than Sumo Boo in this case.

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Not wanting disappointment to cloud my judgment, I quickly move into Buta Naked Ramen. A small bowl of sticky ramen glistening with spicy sauce accompanied by small dices of pork meats and sunny fried egg. The portion is appropriate as snack, but definitely not for those who are looking for big lunch. Or any other lunch in particular.

Here is my first impression: Gosh! This ramen is freaking spicy!

As an Indonesian, I can pretty much handle spicy dish. From green small chills (usually sold by street vendors with their giant ageing frying pans and label-less oil) to Japanese iconic wasabi. However they are way different than what Sumo Boo has created. At first the ramen feels nice in your mouth; it’s a little harder than Ikkudoichi’s ramen, but with perfect saltiness. Then, when it touches down the base of your throat, the Vesuvius explodes in one giant burst of flame. It burns my tongue and my stomach feels unnaturally warm. My best guess is they use something similar with traditional Chinese chilli that deafens your tongue instead of warming your stomach. The diced pork helps a little though; charred on the outside with nice juicy fat quickly filling up my mouth the moment I chew it. Hmm, just the way I like it.

I am not saying that the crazy spice level ruins this dish. On the contrary, I think that’s the real selling point behind this ramen. For those who don’t like spicy foods at all, I suggest you to choose zero or even better, just order other dishes on the menu (the hot dog looks promising).

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Tori Naked Ramen tastes unsurprisingly similar, although the noodle feels tougher and the chicken fat is not as juicy as the pork. It’s a worthy replacement though, especially for our Moslems friends.

After one of the servers gave me my bill, I quickly throw my money and leave, not even checking if the server notices my rude doing or not. No, I am not mad because of the price. I just can’t stand being stared by a bunch of families standing right in front of me. Yes, my stare-strategy backfires. They wait with such intensity, reminding me of National Geographic’s explanation of lion pack, hunting in silence. I feel the need to run away as quickly as possible.

Sumo Boo pulls off a nice effort with great service and decent foods (except for the Kakigori). However, the crazy people waiting in line to get a glimpse of its cute dishes make the cafe uncomfortable and noisy, an unfortunate double edge sword that ruins the basic principle of a cafe. This is not entirely Sumo Boo’s fault. Actually, I think this is just a show of how consumerism has ruled over Indonesian people. One way or another, I make a promise to myself not to return to Sumo Boo. At least, before the crowds calm down and the trends roll over.

  • Taman Anggrek Mall, Tanjung Duren Timur 2 Street, Tanjung Duren, West Jakarta
  • Hours: 10.00 – 22.00
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