Monsters roam the walls of this ice cream shop.
8945 Mira Mesa Boulevard, San Diego
There I sat, in a Mira Mesa ice cream shop. It was around 3 p.m., and suddenly the shop went from virtually empty to packed with elementary school children — laughing, wiggling, and too excited to sit down.
I was excited, too. ICMonster specializes in rolled ice cream, a Thai invention that employs clever spatula work and a supercooled griddle to quickly turn fresh cream into tight scrolls of ice cream. When the cream is spread thin across the frigid surface, it freezes through, like an ice cream pancake. The spatula curls it away from the griddle, into a roll.
Making ice cream rolls with a spatula and cold plate
The spatula also chops up flavors and toppings, mixing them into the cream as it freezes. Watching the labor-intensive process was like watching Mongolian BBQ meets Cold Stone.
Rolled ice cream on a sandwich of glazed donut and two-tone butterfly-pea flower tea
I’d been slow to order in the first place. Starting at $6.25, flavor options included sesame-, matcha-, and berry-infused ice creams. But serving options began with a paper cup. You can get a waffle cone, except it’s not in a cone shape. More like a big tortilla. I went with ice cream rolls served on a sandwich made on two slices of glazed donut. I mean, if somebody came up with the idea to serve ice cream on a donut, the least I can do is try it.
Another exciting ICMonster offering is tea. To the extent tea can be considered exciting, butterfly-pea flower tea gets it done. Described last year by Bon Appetit magazine as “the next big thing in the exotic beverage category,” it’s touted as having health benefits. It also changes different bright colors in different pH solutions, so ICMonster offers interesting two-tone concoctions. The $4.25 rose blossom tea came in purple on the top, bright orange on the bottom. The plastic cup was sealed, and I was encouraged to shake before drinking, making it a dark, muddy purple.
I’d gone with cookies-and-cream ice cream. Apparently chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and cookie toppings come standard with every order, but I waved them off. I was already pushing my sugar limits with that donut and wanted to focus on the texture of the rolled ice cream.
Which turned out to be just like any other ice cream. Once it’s in your mouth, it all melts together, with no suggestion of having been flattened. It was maybe a smidge sweeter. The donut glaze made it sweeter still and was a little stale. A couple of bites in I reached for the flowery tea, hoping to contrast the sweetness. But that tea, while tasty and complex, was as sweet as any ice tea you’d get out of a tall can in a convenience store. Call me a curmudgeon, but this kooky pairing was pushing me into sugar overload.
Looking around, I noticed the kids were starting to be served their own sugar overloads. It would only be a matter of minutes before the place erupted into a cyclone of hyperactivity. ICMonster, indeed. I stood up and made my exit, careful not to look back until I’d made it safely out of the suburbs.