Driving past the Savers plaza in Tonawanda, you could almost miss the small Taichi Bubble Tea sign in the strip mall. What doesn’t look like much from the outside has a surprisingly cozy interior, specializing in an unusual take on your average sushi roll.
The ambiance is bright and modern, with light wooden booths giving you privacy for you and your friends to talk. There are a variety of board games and card games to play at your table, as well as stacks of notebooks to color funny pictures and leave notes in while you wait for your food.
Taichi's specialty is Japanese sushi bowls and sushi burritos with a seaweed wrap that you can stuff with rice or greens, proteins and added ingredients, sauces and toppings. Order at the counter using a paper menu that has all the choices and check the box next to anything you want. (iPads will soon replace the paper menus to make ordering even easier.)
The bowls are great, but the burritos are a little more unusual. A good choice on your first visit is a burrito with either a white or brown rice base. Then pick your greens. Plain lettuce is always a solid fallback to add a nice crunch without stealing flavors away from the fresh fish and top-shelf ingredients.
Next, pick your protein and then additional ingredients. (With one protein, your meal is $8.99, two for $9.99, and three for $11.99). For spicy or regular salmon, try it with slices of buttery avocado and fresh cucumber. Add in a little cream cheese for a slightly tangy, salty element along with fried crispy wonton noodles for added crunch. Having a variety of flavors and textures that play off each other is the key to delicious sushi.
The lean raw tuna is a great starter fish, only mildly fishy and very soft in texture. It's a tasty go-to option if you’re struggling to decide. It tastes great with crunchy, briny seaweed salad and spicy wasabi sauce and spicy mayo for a creamy kick. Even a little masago (or fish egg) that bursts with a mild salty flavor would complement the tuna nicely.
Not a huge fan of raw seafood? Pick a protein like crispy bacon or juicy, tender chicken. Mix in flavors like jalapeño, mushrooms, plump tomato, spinach, sweet corn and green peppers and top it off with a spicy mayo and fried onions or fried garlic. This gives the burrito a southwestern flare that you wouldn’t expect to find in a Japanese establishment.
Taichi is known for its bubble teas and also has a variety of other teas, smoothies and beverages available. Regardless of what base drink you choose, add bubbles to your drink. (A small drink is $3.50, large drink is $4.25, and a hot drink is an additional 25 cents depending on size).
The creamy milk teas are my favorite, and don’t be afraid to mix and match two of the milk teas. The taro root, purple in color resembling the slight sweet flavor of yams, tastes even better mixed with the sweetness of meaty coconut.
They have nine bubble varieties consisting of different jellies and boba that burst with such flavors as passion fruit, lychee and strawberry. If you’re trying bubble tea for the first time, go with the original pearl tapioca balls that are chewy like gummies and lack flavor, so it doesn’t take the taste away from the milk tea.
If you’re looking for a good atmosphere, fun games, delicious sushi dishes, and chewy boba drinks you can definitely find it at Taichi.
Taichi Bubble Tea
2309 Eggert Road, Tonawanda (322-5663)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Price range: $3.50-$11.99
Wheelchair-access: Yes, one floor.
Gluten-free options: Yes