Vivi Bubble Tea
Price: $4 for a big bowl with 3 toppings.
Ice: 4 points. Where it went a bit wonky—the ice was quite gravelly, and unfortunately frozen to itself in the middle.
Toppings: 7 points. The tapioca pearls are excellent (since they serve good bubble tea); other toppings are serviceable and there are 6 available options.
Syrup: 2 points. This amount of ice definitely needs a bigger hit of brown sugar syrup. I also rooted around for the condensed milk I ordered, but either it was forgotten or doled out minimally.
Total: 13 points. The biggest portion in the area served by fun, trendy staff (my cashier was wearing circle lenses, after all), but ask them to go heavy on the syrup.
49 Bayard Street, New York NY 10013 (map); 212-566-6833
Price: $3.25 for a tin takeout tray-ful.
Ice: 9 points. Fine and snowy, charmingly hand-cranked from an antique shaver. It's almost too fine—it melts rather quickly.
Toppings: 3 points. Only two choices of bean or mango, and the beans are too sweet for my taste. It might make more sense for someone who hasn't encountered beans as a dessert topping before.
Syrup: 4 points. A well-calculated portion, and the owner instructs employees to drizzle it in a crucial star shape to maintain the ice mound's peak.
Total points: 16 points. If you tend to think Chinese desserts are never sweet enough, this will rank higher for you than it did for me. But all things considered, it's probably a good place to go for a mango shaved ice if you weren't keen on bean anyway.
100 Saint Marks Place, New York NY 10009 (map); 212-505-2121
Shaving Ice at Dumpling Man
The antique shaver in action.
Ten Ren (Manhattan)
Price: $5 if you go all out on toppings.
Ice: 8 points. Decently fine, but a rather small portion for the price.
Toppings: 6 points. Asked to sample all available toppings. Tried a decent red bean and 8 bean mix, along with a lackluster fruit jelly that dragged the score down. Other toppings were advertised, but they ran out.
Syrup: 3 points. I could have done without the cherry syrup, but the condensed milk was fine.
Total: 17 points. Decent for the area, but don't ask for "everything" like I did. Go for beans, skip the fruit jelly and cherry syrup, and you should be golden.
75 Mott Street, New York NY 10013(map);212-349-2286
Excellent Pork Chop House
Price: $3.50 for rather small portion.
Ice: 6 points. tad gravelly and middle of the road, but it works.
Toppings: 8 points. A good variety, well-made, though the beans could be sweeter.
Syrup: 4 points. Definitely enough of it! It becomes a sweet, icy soup near the end, my favorite!
Total: 18 points. A good, if small-portioned Chinatown bet and an even better restaurant name. Who doesn't like saying "Excellent Pork Chop House" aloud? Excellent Pork Chop House. Yeah, I like the sound of that.
3 Doyers Street, New York NY 10013 (map); 212-791-7007
Price: $5 for a large bowl with three toppings.
Ice: 7 points. Decent, but a little gravelly; and it became hard going in the center of the bowl.
Toppings: 8 points. 4-5 classic options, but they had ran out of some. The ones I picked were well made and tasty. A photogenic bowl!
Syrup: 3 points. Not enough of an otherwise decent sugar syrup. And where's the condensed milk?
Total points: 18 points. A strong showing, if an odd location: it's available at the banquet restaurant's bar, and it's in a somewhat more remote location away from Main Street.
3781 Northern Boulevard, Flushing NY 11354 (map); 718-886-2988
S&C Shaved Ice at Flushing Mall
Price: $4 for a plateful of their Taiwanese-style ice.
Ice: 5 points. Serviceable, but rather gravelly, which causes brain freeze. Ow.
Toppings: 9 points. Good selection of traditional toppings, and there's ice cream too! Mango is offered, but is unripe—a shame.
Syrup: 5 points. Lots of fruit options in addition to a decent sugar syrup.
Total points: 19 points. Though a weak showing on the ice, it's a nice dessert if you're dining at the Flushing Mall, and notable for its wide topping variety. Since they've reopened from an ill-timed Department of Health violation, they now serve shave ice on glass plates rather than bowls. Tip: You'll likely get a larger portion if you go with a takeout bowl, even if the plate makes it all fancy-looking.
13331 39th Avenue, Flushing NY 11354 (map); 718-463-2050
Taiwan Ice at Taipan Bakery
Price: $6 for their mixed bean ice, although other flavors range from $4-8.
Ice: 10 points. Perfectly fine and fluffy.
Toppings: 7 points. A ton of variety, and as many as 8 varieties of beans depending on which plate you get. Unfortunately, beans are undercooked and undersweetened. Four varieties of fruit are offered, including mango and strawberry.
Syrup: 3 points. A variety of options, including fruit, but brown sugar syrup is too thick and cloying.
Total points: 20 points. At least 3 people commented on how huge this was (I offered them some, but they refused). You get quantity for what you pay for. Good if you're hungry and looking for a really filling meal for two, but they really have to work on their toppings before I'd wholeheartedly recommend them.
37-25 Main Street, Flushing New York 11354 (map); 718-888-1111
Price: $3.75 for their large Corner 28 special bowl.
Ice: 7 points. A tad gravelly, but with hearty, generous ingredients, so it balances out.
Toppings: 9 points. Awesome! Great selection, offers fruit and other toppings, including puddings, tapioca pearls, canned pineapple, mixed beans, peanuts, and red beans. They're on display you can just point away. The beans are well-prepared with just the right amount of sweetness. However, skip the taro, which comes in oversized chunks.
Syrup: 5 points. Lots of options, including a variety of fruit syrups.
Total points: 21 points. A top contender that had me swooning with an excellent variety of toppings and syrups and generous portion size. I wanted to down it all, and had a hard time pacing myself with this one. Ordering is a little tricky—you have to pay first at a separate register, then bring your receipt over.
4028 Main Street, Flushing NY 11354 (map); 718-886-6628
Ice Fire Land
Price: $3.90 for a reasonably sized portion.
Ice: 10 points. Not only super-finely shaved and fluffy, but also ingeniously placed on top. Makes it much more light and refreshing.
Toppings: 10 points. Mixed together at the bottom rather applied separately, a risky move. A good slate of traditional options (no fruit), including my picks: red bean, corn, and peanuts, all well cooked and sweetened.
Syrup: 4 points. Excellent condensed milk topping on top, sweet and nutty, good brown sugar syrup.
Total points: 24 points. A favorite. A mystical melange of the perfect ice and well-made toppings that manages to avoid feeling heavy. And they also have hot pot, hence "Ice Fire Land."
13511 40th Road, Flushing NY 11354 (map); 718-886-8600