Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Boba Lab, Santa Monica, CA

Oh Yelpers.  You lead me astray.  Far astray.

I'll keep this one short, because, well, there is no point in prolonging it.

I was on a business trip, in the land I loathe: the greater Los Angeles sprawl.  It was cold, my hotel was ... let's just say, a different class than I've gotten used to, and I was really poorly rested.  I was grumpy.  I wanted something yummy to cheer me up, and took a page out of my own playbook, ordering bubble tea delivery (a favorite move of mine when traveling too much).

I picked Boba Lab for many reasons, but the 4 stars on Yelp was certainly a big part of my motivation.  As was the menu with not just taro creations, but, UBE! too.

I ordered via Postmates, because the other services either wouldn't deliver to me, or didn't have the ube drink listed in their apps.  The delivery took nearly an hour longer than quoted, but my drink clearly was made much sooner, my delivery person was just busy "completing another trip", for ... an hour.  I was even more grumpy.

This drink did NOT make up for it.  I would not order again, not even in person.
Ube Marble $7
with red bean, berry boba, lychee jelly, pudding, salted cheese foam, soy milk +$1/each.
Yes, I went a little crazy with my "toppings", but, this was intentional.  I had read the ube marble wasn't particularly interesting on its own, just ube puree and milk, and the flavor was muted.  So I wanted to jazz it up.  Plus, one topping is included for free, additional were $1 each.  The topping lineup was pretty decent, standard jellies, red bean, puddings, but also a larger selection of different types of boba, besides just standard and popping boba, they offer "tiny" boba, berry boba, hazelnut boba, uh, "yummy" boba.  So, I got ... an assortment.
I had to laugh when my "drink" arrived though, looking more like halo halo than a drink.  Which, to be fair, is what I was going for.  The drink came layered with all my toppings, and then just a small amount of the ube puree and milk.  The foam I requested on the side, which, I'm quite glad I did.  More on that soon.

This was ... pretty much the worst bubble tea drink I've ever encountered.  From top to bottom.

Starting at the base, red bean.  It clearly came from a can, which can be fine, but it was hard little pellets.  Not good.  Above that was lychee jellies, the only topping that wasn't repulsive, but, they were notable only in this way, not *horrible*, just pretty standard, slimy, sweet, canned jellies.  The pudding was next, tons of it, and was the same poor, canned quality as the red beans.  These ingredients all tasted cheap, and were seemingly not stored well.

The berry boba I had a little hope for, as they seemed to be a specialty item, perhaps even made in the store, as they are only available after 1pm.  The berry flavor was actually pretty unique, and nice even, but the boba themselves?  As awful as the red bean, way too chewy, way too hard.  Not good.

The drink base was ... milk.  I requested soy milk, but I'm 99.99% certain this was regular milk.  Just, milk.  Exactly what I had read about.  Bo-ring.  There was a little bit of purple ube puree smeared around the edge of the cup, making it the "marble" beverage, but it, just as people said, was pretty muted.  It still mostly tasted just like milk.

And that ... was my drink. Milk, and low end mix-ins, with some passable lychee jellies and a smear of ube.  Sigh.

But wait, there is more.  The salty cheese foam!  My absolute favorite part of boba drinks.  But this ... this was the worst I've ever had.  Not only was it not good, it was just ... awful.  It was not "foam" in any way.  It had no loft to it.  It was just cream.  And, uh, it was salty.  VERY salty.  I adore sweet and salty combos, and I ordered the salted foam for a reason, but wow, this was so over-the-top salty.  Really, really not good.

And with that, into the trash it went.