Summer is ice cream season, but there’s much more of this cooling dessert in Beijing than Haagen Dazs and Coldstone. This summer, discover the tastiest and most interesting ice creams from Beijing’s best restaurants.
The restaurant with some of the least conventional ice cream in the city is Agua, where Chef Jordi turns this cool dessert into a savory side dish. His salmon marinated in soy sauce and served with radish salad (RMB108) is topped with wasabi ice cream, and the steak tartar (RMB128/198) comes with salty black truffle ice cream. Finish your meal with thick coffee cream, hazelnut cake and a much more normal house-made vanilla ice cream (RMB68).
Brasserie Flo also excels in “weird” ice creams and sorbets—we’ve tried bell pepper and beet flavors there, and Chef Bertrand Combe can make any flavor to order. But the regular ice cream selection is quite safe, with vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, pistachio and almond, as well as raspberry, lemon, mango and yogurt sorbets. All are made with fresh ingredients (RMB36 plus surcharge for two scoops).
When it comes to innovative ice cream flavors, our favorites are made with herbs and flowers. Bei stands out in this regard, with incredibly refreshing and stimulating basil and coriander flavors. They also make black sesame, strawberry, yogurt, vanilla, apple, shiso and pineapple, all for RMB68 for three scoops.
Although the flavor can be too strong and perfumed for some palates, we have a major weak spot for lavender ice cream, and the only place we’ve found it in Beijing is LMPlus, which also makes vanilla, mango and pistachio ice creams, and lemon sorbet (all RMB39/portion). Check them out at the restaurant’s new Lido branch, or the Central Park original.
Made in China always makes an effort to fuse Beijing traditions with Western desserts, and one of the best examples is their Wuliangye chocolate ice cream, made with baijiu. It sounds weird, but is delicious—a Chinese version of rum raisin. The restaurant also offers mango ginger, jasmine milk tea, lychee, raspberry and rose flavors (RMB58 for two scoops).
Colibri Café’s ice cream offerings aren’t as out there, but this Sanlitun spot is one of the only places in town that serves ice cream from Mövenpick, which has a reputation for making some of the best ice creams in the world. There are nine flavors available, including Swiss chocolate, tiramisu and panna cotta, all made without additives or colorings. It’s RMB30 for one scoop, RMB58 for two.
Beijing-based Wondermilk also prides itself on the healthiness of its ice cream. These dairy products come from cows that are not treated with hormones, additives or antibiotics. Although Wondermilk specializes in frozen yogurt, they have eight flavors of ice cream as well, all served in prepackaged cups (RMB8). In addition to the Sanlitun store, a new branch has just opened in the BHG Wanliu Mall, and you can expect Houhai and Dawang Lu branches later in the summer.
Switch Grill serves some of the most interesting combinations of house-made ice cream flavors in the city. The trilogy of ice cream (RMB40) is just the thing to cool down on a hot day, and comes with blueberry yogurt, pistachio ice cream and lemon verbena sorbet. For something richer, go for the Switch Sundae (RMB50), made with black pepper vanilla, cherry chocolate and cranberry granite ice creams.
The Shunyi set also has a great option for ice creams at the Filling Station, which makes vanilla, Cadbury’s chocolate, coffee, Snickers bar, and strawberries and cream flavors (all RMB25) from scratch. They’ve also added a range of refreshing fruit sorbets just for summer.
What's the most interesting ice cream flavor you've ever eaten? Let us know in the comments below.