The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory = :(

Oh dear god, I'm really slipping with my posts. Sorry, guys. I have a unique reason for this week's slip: My roommates are on vacation and I'm taking advantage of my solitude by practicing my guitar (my skills have progressed very little in the past 10 years; it's more for fun than anything else) and my newly acquired autoharp without fear of annoying the hell out of anyone else. ...Unless my upstairs neighbors can hear me. But I tell myself that they can't.

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
taro and lychee sorbet
Not the cup I ate last week, but it looks about the same.

I like the idea of Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. They provide a different dessert option among the sea of Chinese bakeries (there's also a Häagen-Dazs across the street, but I'm in the mindset that I should support the local business over the one owned by General Mills, even if the latter is tasty), they offer Asian flavors that you won't find at regular ice cream shops, and their mascot is that cool fat dragon dude who looms over Bayard Street.

But I never recommend it to anyone these days (maybe I would've back in 2005 when I first tried it), an idea reinforced by my visit there last Wednesday out of convenience. My tummy said, "Give me taro ice cream." Despite remembering that their taro wasn't all that awesome the last time I tried it over two years ago, I gave it another go. And the result was this string of unsophisticated thoughts: "This doesn't really taste like taro. And there are all these funny little bits in it. Are these taro bits? They don't really taste like taro. What does this taste like? Vanilla? Not really. Sweet? Yeah, ok. WHAT AM I EATING?"

The black sesame fared a bit better in the flavor department, but the texture killed it. String of unsophisticated thoughts, part deux "This is rather fluffy. And not all that creamy. And not very smooth. I haz a sad."

I can't vouch for all the flavors at Chinatown Ice Cream factory, but if they can't do my two favorite flavors well, I don't see the point in going back. I'd rather walk to Sundaes and Cones in the East Village for my Asian flavored ice cream fix if necessary. Their flavors tend to taste like what they're supposed to, and the textures are more creamy and smooth. My problem with Sundaes and Cones though is that they only let you get one flavor per "scoop" when they could easily fit in two, like CICF does, among most other ice cream/gelato shops. It's not hard man, just shove the scooper in two different bins. That might add a few seconds to the process, but I think they can handle it.

taro and black sesame, OH YES
Ice cream cup from Sundaes and Cones. It's lovely.

Yeah, that one-flavor-per-huge-ass-scoop makes me stupidly grumpy. See that cup above? That's a "two-scoop" cup. But damn, it's got like four scoops' worth in there; "scoop" is the wrong unit of measurement. Small, medium, and large make more sense. YOU'RE DAMN RIGHT I'VE GIVEN THIS TOO MUCH THOUGHT. I haven't been to Sundaes and Cones in about a year; if they changed their policy I'd be happy to go back.

Am I being too harsh on Chinatown Ice Cream Factory? I rarely write negative reviews, and I love Chinatown and ice cream, but I feel like it CICF should be...better. And that they have the capability to do so. And I want to know why the taro fails to taste like taro.


Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
65 Bayard Street, New York NY 10013 (b/n Mott and Elizabeth Streets; map)

Sundaes and Cones
95 East 10th Street, New York NY 10003 (b/n 3rd and 4th Aves, map)


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Nicholas / April 13, 2010 1:42 AM

Aw yeah, black sesame. It's like eating chilled 湯圓 (tang yuan?) without the need to burn yourself on hot glutinous rice.

For the record, you know you can ask for samples before buying right? They use those little wooden spoons to give a pretty generous plop of ice cream.

roboppy / April 13, 2010 1:48 AM

Nicholas: Yaay I love tang yuan.

I know I can try flavors, but I usually only do that if I don't know what something will taste like. ...Of course, in this case, I was wrong about what I thought it was going to taste like. That is, I thought it would taste better than last time.

Also, I don't think I could give an adequate review based on a sample, so I'm glad I got the whole cup to know for sure, "This makes me sad."

kim / April 13, 2010 7:45 AM

Have you tried red bean, matcha, and durian? Perhaps CICF is the 'healthier' version with less cream factor? So perhaps their ice cream is 'icier'? Just hypothesizing...

There used to be one in Flushing, but that one closed...:(

Ira / April 13, 2010 8:44 AM

My go-to flavors at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory are ginger and coconut. Had a couple scoops last month and they were as good as ever. The coconut can be really creamy and rich, and the ginger has nice chunks in it. But now - purely in the name of research, of course - I have to go back and get a cup just to make sure they're not going downhill. Damn.

roboppy / April 13, 2010 9:34 AM

kim: I think I've tried red bean before. Not a huge fan of matcha nor durian..I hope those aren't the best flavors!

If it's healthier than other ice creams, I'd use that reason to stay away. I eat ice cream because I want...cream! ;) Or at least something that tastes creamy.

Ira: I've definitely had those before. I'm pretty sure I didn't dislike them, but I guess they weren't my fave flavors. I remember trying coconut fudge once and liking that too. That was probably...over three years

I'm most interested in seeing if anyone else has had the "this doesn't taste like taro" problem, or the not-so-creamy black sesame.

John / April 13, 2010 11:03 AM

The pistachio was good... I think they're inconsistent.

One thing that you left out was the peculiar odor coming from the trash right at the entrance.

I dunno the place is okay but I wouldn't go there unless I was in the area in the first place.

I do have a slight bias for them since it is one of the places I went on my first date with Claire.

eula / April 13, 2010 11:56 AM

I haven't been to Chinatown ice cream factory in years. I always got the pumpkin pie flavor. Maybe it's time to go back and try something different.. I guess not sesame or taro. That's sad, those are awesome flavors. I'll have to check out sundaes and cones. Thanks.

lo / April 13, 2010 2:04 PM

Yes, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is definitely not as good as the hype...although it's nice for a locally owned place to do well. I have found many of their ice creams to be less creamy tasting than they should be (sometimes grainy) and the flavors to be shy of my expectations. I lived across the street for several years, had lots of opportunities to taste the flavors and ended up choosing to Haagen Daz in the end!

Dina / April 13, 2010 2:06 PM

I've never gotten scoops, but what I do go for is the ice cream cake - Mango, red bean & lychee... That combo is the BEST and the lychee is spot on. Something about the combination is just wonderful, but it's not the cheapest thing in the world. I think the smallest one will set you back $18? (or something like that), but for me it's worth it. Sometimes I share... =)

carol / April 13, 2010 2:43 PM

My favorite @ Chinatown ice cream factory is Almond Cookie...not too sweet, nice aroma, creamy! They asked for new flavors suggestions...maybe Thai ice tea? moon cake?
Incidentally, I spotted you @ CICF on Wednesday night, but was too shy to say 'hi'...maybe next time...

Terry / April 13, 2010 3:18 PM

Omg, yes I totally understand what you're saying. I guess it's all the hype that CICF has gotten over the course of these years. Now it's more like a tourist attraction...

I guess eating those ice cream at Sundaes & Cones works better for me just because I live closer to there anyway. =) Btw, you picked the flavors I completely will die over - black sesame and taro.

roboppy / April 13, 2010 4:31 PM

John: The peculiar sewer odor!..i think that's the odor of Chinatown. Heh.

Sentimental value is good. :) MAYBE SOMEDAY..I WILL EXPERIENCE THAT!

Esther: Did our tastebuds change? :(

Eula: I don't know if I've tried the pumpkin pie! I do love pumpkin pie.

Lo: Graininess = wah. I should try HD, haha.

Dina: Never tried the cake before! Actually I never buy ice cream cake. I can't eat a ..whole cake. But I wouldn't mind a slice.

Alexia: Sweet! I hope they turn out well.

Carol: YOU SAW MEEEE? Omg say hi next time!

Thai iced tea would be awesome.

Terry: If I lived near Sundaes and Cones I'd def be there more. Maybe it's for the best I don't live near any ice cream shops!

Jamie / April 14, 2010 6:07 PM

I've had a friend have a really bad experience w/ the place. They gave back too little change, and she realized half a block away and went back to tell them. She left a business card with them and they actually sent letters to all her bosses (literally EVERYONE from CEO to her direct boss) attempting to get her fired. Fortunately she was the one picked up the mail so she was able to intercept it. But I thought that was ridiculously low for Chinatown Ice Cream. I don't know what words were exchanged between them, but I felt that was so unprofessional of them that I don't go there anymore. It's good to know I'm not missing out.

Christina / April 15, 2010 2:37 PM

Nothing, not even the lack of world peace, is more sad than terrible ice cream. This reminds me of the time I tried gelato for the first time ("It's made with low fat milk so it's healthier!" should have been the giveaway) and it tasted like foam.

Winnie / April 18, 2010 12:36 PM

My favorite asian flavors are also taro and black sesame and I don't like them at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. When I need my black sesame fix, I go to Mitsuwa.

Will definitely have to try Sundaes and Cones. I never object to 4 "scoops" of ice cream. :)

roboppy / April 20, 2010 1:12 AM

Jamie: Whoa, that is a really dumb and unprofessional move on CICF's part. :( No need for you to go there!

jyoh: Maybe we can join forces and make S&C change their policy...warh.

Christina: OH MY GOD WHAT HELLISH GELATO WAS THAT?! That sounds..very sad. :(

Winnie: Mitsuwa's black sesame soft serve is SO FUGGIN GOOD. I wish it were closer.

Christina / April 21, 2010 1:37 PM

I just found your site. :) Mitsuwa, hands-down, has the best sesame soft soft, & their green tea is awesome as well. You can get them swirled together for the same price! Alas, it's so far away... Regarding CICF, they've changed ownership (it's been a few years now), so that might be why the quality isn't the same. I knew the son of the first owners. The one in Flushing was from someone who had worked in the ctown one, but it was not associated w/ the ctown one. Lots of family feuding went on through the years. Such as life...

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