The best part about summer is the search for new icy treats to try, and a good reason to venture out into this kind of heat. Last summer we went for raspados, paletas, and nieves; this year, a completely different (and slightly crazy) icy option has appeared in Flushing's New World Mall. Welcome Snopo to the Queens ice scene—shaved ice on another level.
Not satisfied with plain ice, at Snopo, flavors are frozen into the block of ice along with milk and then shaved on a special machine, which gives the dessert a completely different look, texture and taste. The cotton-candy like fluffy mountains of ice are milky, sweet, and soft. There are a few different ways to get these snowy desserts. There is a menu with "Pure Snowy" ice flavors—coffee, lychee, honey dew, strawberry, mango, and green matcha, to name a few—that can be topped any way you would like with red beans, tapioca balls, jelly, and other fun stuff, much like a regular shave ice. These start at $3.99 and go up depending on size and toppings. And then there is the "Romantic Snowy" section of the menu. With fanciful names like Forever Life, Precious Time, and Snow White, these icy concoctions are over-the-top summer fun.
Princess Strawberry ($7.99; pictured at top) is a preteen girl's fantasy dessert—pink, sweet, colorful, and fun to eat. I felt a little ridiculous carrying the pale pink concoction through the food court while looking for a place to sit down, but it was worth it. The strawberry milk ice is topped with strawberries, of course, as well as red bean, mango jelly, strawberry syrup, and a few crunchy and psychedelic-looking balls of Trix cereal, and the best garnish of them all: caramel popcorn. The crunch adds much-needed texture to the dessert, though really, it's the absurdity of the toppings that make it so great.
The lychee flavor in the Asian Queen (Lychee) Romantic Snowy ($7.99) is not very strong at all—it mostly just tastes sweet—but the lychee jelly is what gives it that floral flavor with each bite. Chopped strawberries add a fruity freshness, though chunks of canned peaches are a bit strange. Topped with strawberry syrup and rainbow sprinkles, it's a bit excessive, but not quite as absurd as Princess Strawberry.
The first time that I tried the Pure Snowy Green Matcha ($4.50), I found it to be the most flavorful ice, the strongest-tasting, and the most colorful, with the beautiful dusty green of matcha powder. A green tea syrup and a few simple toppings make for a sweet treat with a slight bitter edge. I liked it so much that I went back for more...
... but was terribly disappointed by the Precious Time (Matcha) Romantic Snowy ($7.99). Either they changed the recipe or someone different was making the master mix, because the ice was bland and barely tasted like matcha; it was only the green tea syrup that gave the dish the slightest hint of flavor. I did enjoy the Cookie Crisp cereal garnish, again due to novelty, and the kiwi and almond jellies added something to the plate as well—but I left with a bitter taste in my mouth that wasn't from the matcha.
The strawberry flavor in the Strawberry Pure Snowy ($4.50) is somewhat muted, and not overly sweet; it gets tapioca for chewiness and mango jelly for a touch of the tropical. Due to that simplicity, it was a more enjoyable dessert than the Strawberry Princess. And the Mango Snowy ($4.50) had just a hint of mango essence, and wasn't too sweet; the large mound of ice was easy to finish, light and refreshing on a hot day.
So what have we learned about Snopo? While romance is great and all, the best Snowys are the simplest. When I ordered a Pure Snowy with my own favorite toppings, I enjoyed the experience much more. I also learned that on some days, the snowy is less flavorful than others. When spending $8.00 on a "Romantic Ice," consistency is important. That said, if you're at the New World Mall, Snowy is worth a try—if only for the fun of it.
New World Mall Food Court 40-21 Main Street, Flushing NY 11354 (map)