0 Degree, which has built a highly successful business in Middletown, opened its newest location on Park Road in West Hartford on Monday.
By Ronni Newton
Rolled ice cream, also called stir-fried ice cream, has been a popular street food in Thailand for the past several years and the craze has now hit West Hartford with the opening Monday of the town’s first Thai rolled ice cream shop, 0 Degree, at 120 Park Rd.
Owned by Ivan Lin, it’s the fourth location for the business that introduced the rolled ice cream concept to the state less than a year ago. The first 0 Degree opened in Middletown to rave reviews in December, and a second 0 Degree opened earlier this month in New Haven. Lin also owns Ice Monster in Storrs Center.
“People really enjoy watching it,” Maiduo Lamu said as she described the concept at the West Hartford shop.
Indeed the watching is a major part of the 0 Degree experience. When the purchase is made each customer’s name is written on their cup, and they are then personally invited up to the counter when it’s time for their treat to be created.
The process is fascinating as a creamy flavored liquid mixture is poured onto an icy cold round metal tray that looks like a pizza pan. According to one of the 0 Degree employees, the surface is kept at -15°F, even colder than the shop’s name implies.
There are 12 different flavors, many of which have fun names like “I Love You A Latte” (coffee and condensed milk), “Monkey Business” (banana and Nutella), “Strawberry Shawty” (strawberries and graham), and “Ain’t Got No Thai Fo Dat” (Thai tea and condensed milk). There are a few chocolatey choices like the “Chocolicious” (Chips Ahoy and chocolate) and “S’mores Galore” (graham, chocolate, and marshmallow). For the fruit lovers, there’s a “Tropical Twist” with mango and pineapple.
Depending on the flavor choice, additions like chocolate chip or Oreo cookies are chopped up and combined with the milky mixture, and all blended together with paddles before being spread evenly across the pan and rolled into a thin layer of frozen yumminess.
It’s the icy equivalent of the “stir-fry” process, and with the seriously cold temperature of the pan, the thin mixture hardens quickly. “It takes only a minute,” said Ling Lin, as she prepared an order of Chocolicious.
The ice cream is sliced vertically into six strips, and then rolled up with what looks like a paint scraper.
The entire process takes about two minutes.
Receiving a full bowl full of what looks like a bouquet of mini frozen crepes standing upright means the treat is only partially ready to eat; the toppings still need to be added, and there is quite the variety to choose from ranging from sweet to salty.
In addition to whipped cream and several syrup choices, an assortment of berries, pineapple, coconut, whole chocolate chip cookies, animal crackers, chocolate chips, pretzels, gummy bears, toasted marshmallows, M&Ms, peppermint sticks, and more can be added.
The finished creations are camera-ready, and social media sharing is encouraged. The wings painted on the wall provide a perfect backdrop for photos that can be shared, too.
“Oh, that’s good,” West Hartford resident Jon Weiner declared as he sampled a spoonful of Tropical Twist topped with raspberries and Nilla wafers.
“It’s a great addition to Park Road, a new destination,” Weiner said.
While there’s a lot of decision-making to be done, there is only one size cup and no separate charge for toppings. All rolled ice cream is $7, including tax.
In addition to ice cream, 0 Degree serves classic bubble tea ($3.5o small/$5.00 large) and fruit tea ($3.50 small and $4.25 large), both available in a variety of flavors.
One word of warning for customers seeking to visit this week: the credit card machine has not yet been installed, so bring cash. Lamu said that credit cards will be accepted beginning next week.
Unless cookie pieces are added, most of the rolled ice cream is naturally gluten-free, but there are no dairy-free choices at this point. Lamu said there may be a dairy-free option in the future.
A traditional cone doesn’t really accommodate this style of ice cream, but Lamu said a possibility for the future is a “taco-style” option.
0 Degree has brought new life to a long-vacant building at 120 Park Rd. that once housed Classic Cakes but has been used as storage for a number of years. There is an on-site parking lot, as well as available street parking.
The shop is open daily from noon until 10 p.m., and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
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