Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Matcha, Shaved Ice, and Taro Balls, Oh My!

Amausaan Uji Matcha in Berkeley and Meet Fresh in Oakland offer two new ways to get your frozen dessert on.

By Katherine Hamilton
Tue, Jul 2, 2019 at 3:06 PM

click to enlarge The pudding and Q mochi shaved ice at Meet Fresh — yummy­. - PHOTO BY KATHERINE HAMILTON
  • Photo by Katherine Hamilton
  • The pudding and Q mochi shaved ice at Meet Fresh — yummy­.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I've never needed an excuse to eat dessert. But here are two, in case you needed them: Two new dessert shops have opened in the East Bay in recent weeks, and both offer desserts that are rarely found elsewhere in the East Bay.

Meet Fresh (362 8th St., Unit C, Oakland), a Taiwan-based dessert chain, recently opened its first Oakland location in Chinatown after months of anticipation. There's a massive selection of desserts on offer, ranging from shaved ice, taro balls served hot or cold, grass jelly served hot or cold, tofu pudding, red bean soup, purple rice desserts, and small bites like mochi and mung bean cakes. You'll also find a full menu of drinks, ranging from wintermelon tea to milk tea to herbal tea and "fluffy" tea.

One hot afternoon, I went for the pudding and Q mochi shaved ice, which is listed as one of Meet Fresh's five most popular desserts. What I received was an impressively tall shaved ice — too big even for two ambitious eaters to finish — with a scoop of ice cream precariously balanced on top. The shaved ice comes drizzled with brown sugar syrup and condensed milk, giving it a refreshing creamy, caramelized flavor. Toppings surround the mountain of ice, including entire rounds of egg pudding and almond pudding, jelly noodles, white and black logs of mochi, and mini purple and orange taro balls. True to its name, the toppings — especially the jelly noodles and mochi — have that satisfying "Q" texture, meaning they're springy and chewy like boba. Flakes of coconut on top, meanwhile, add a hint of crispy texture and toasty flavor. At nearly $10, it's not a cheap treat, but the portion size and taste justify the price if you bring along a couple of friends to help you finish it.

Meanwhile, over in downtown Berkeley, Amausaan Uji Matcha (1950 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley), a Chinese chain, specializes in all things matcha — think crepe cakes, hot and cold drinks, matcha ice, parfaits, and soft-serve ice cream. Guests are greeted at the door by a statue of a rabbit wearing a red kimono and holding a matcha parfait. It's primarily a table service spot, and you'll find adorable rabbit-themed decor throughout the restaurant.

I tried the uji matcha soft serve, which comes in your choice of a regular cone or an Instagram-worthy black cone. The black cone earns more style points than flavor points. My server informed me it was colored with charcoal, though the charcoal wasn't intended to add any flavor. Still, the cone was crisp and slightly sweet, with a hint of vanilla flavor. It's a good complement to the matcha soft serve, which was packed with grassy, slightly bitter, toasty matcha flavor. The soft serve definitely leans toward light and refreshing rather than rich and heavy, making it perfect for a summer treat.

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