Photos, story by Cassie Hepler
“You’ve tried the rest, now try the best,” said David Chow, one of the three owners including Lisa Taing and Jimmy Huynh of ICE•NY•PHILLY located in Chinatown Square’s still growing storefront food hall at 1016-18 Race St. “Go ahead and try the competition first to have something to compare it to.”
Even in the middle of winter, lines snaked down and around the block for the grand opening on December 28th with the blessing of the dragons bringing luck and fortune to the business.
“We are the original group who inspired others to do rolled ice cream and rolling it in front of you,” said Chow. “It caught fire and now people are hot for it.”
Awaiting the finalized front-end construction of Chinatown Square, which was supposed to open in May, the ice cream shop put up a drool worthy food porn covered banner announcing their plan to open. Soon other places began opening up around the city and in Chinatown.
“Sweet Charlie’s literally said they got their idea from a YouTube video about ice cream in Thailand,” Taing.
“But we have one of the founders right here,” she said, gesturing to Oak Apisit, who created the whole Thai ice cream concept in Thailand with Kajtisa Premwimol and Danny Teeradej Naruenartwanich that spread across the globe due to their YouTube video.
“This is our fourth U.S. location,” said Apisit. “We have 250 in Thailand and Southeast Asia. We opened the first shop in Washington Square, NYC in 2015.”
Thai rolled ice cream is made by piling fresh ingredients on a frozen metal plate, spreading it out repeatedly until it’s frozen and then scraping it into rolls. First you pick a base, then a mix in item, add a topping and drizzle or chose a predesigned option. The made to order ice cream run about $6-8 with generous portions. And the calorie count? We’ll say somewhere around 500 calories per cup. The difference between the competitors are the unique flavors offered.
“We have black sesame, taro, mango sticky rice, thai iced tea, coconut milk and more,” said Chow.
The thai iced tea tastes exactly like its liquid form and full of caffeine, topped with lychee shards. Naturally purple infused taro has an earthy, sweet and crunchy taste with some coconut flakes on top for more texture and some mochi (gummy-like candy) on top. Both are topped with whipped cream and if you’re lucky, a crunchy cookie “straw”.
Already planning to expand to University City in the Spring or Summer somewhere near 40th Street, the trio will be pulling employees from people who lined up to be part of the new concept in Chinatown.
To the right of the ice cream store, also located in Chinatown Square is The Halal Brothers, also with a flagship store in NYC that opened at the same time.
“We love it because people can have dinner there and dessert here,” said Chow.
The halal place is owned by ICE•NY•PHILLY owner Lisa Taing’s brother David Taing and his partners. Chinatown Square, which is still under complete construction and will be Chinatown’s first food hall, is owned by Chinatown business owners David Taing and Kenny Poon and is set for a soft opening of most businesses toward the end of the month by Chinese New Year, Jan. 28, 2017.
What’s on the menu? A karaoke bar with a Johnny Walker lounge, a Philly poke restaurant, a Japanese Curry concept, Japanese cocktail concept from a Michelin star chef/mixologist, Cambodian restaurant, a dual Korean Mexican restaurant, Japanese sake/whiskey bar with street food and a sweet oyster station with shucking bar to name a few. What’s for dessert? Thai ice cream, naturally. Learn more about Chinatown in our eating guide.