A comprehensive Serious Eats taste test established that the best shaved ice is found, unsurprisingly, in Flushing. But we wondered about two relative newcomers to the shaved ice game in the East Village –TKettle, which just started offering shaved ice this summer, and Just Sweet, which opened a couple of weeks ago.
Just Sweet offers, well, just sweets, including crepes, ice cream sundaes, tong shui (sweet soup), and bubble tea. TKettle is a Taiwanese bubble tea and snack shop. Both offer Taiwanese-style shaved ice with sweetened beans on top, and they’re separated by just a few blocks.
The two versions cost almost exactly the same: Just Sweet ringing up at $5.44 and TKettle at $5.43. Neither one is a great value, though TKettle’s portion is substantially larger.
Just Sweet’s version comes in a grapefruit-sized bowl, with toppings of sweet adzuki beans, green mung beans, chewy sago balls, and mochi neatly arranged on top. Though the ice is a little granular, it is also reasonably fluffy and light, not too dense. The beans on top are tasty though a bit mushy, mildly sugary, and the mochi and sago add their respective pleasant chewiness. The sweetness from the beans flavors the ice, though there isn’t any condensed milk drizzled on top — apparently you must ask for it.
When TKettle’s menu says “mixed beans,” it really means mixed beans. You could entertain yourself trying to identify them all — kidney, lima, adzuki, mung, peanut, and more. Then there are grains of barley in the sweet, goopy mix, along with a scattering of tapioca balls. The bean medley tastes great — fresh, textural, not too sugary, nutty — but the ice leaves much to be desired. It’s clumpy and dense, frozen into big lumps in places.
Although TKettle’s bean topping is much more appealing, the texture of the ice is more than half the dessert’s appeal, and so the winner of this battle is — just barely — Just Sweet.
83 Third Avenue
26 St. Marks Place