By Hannah Han ’21
Sul & Beans, tucked in the corner of MaDang Courtyard in Koreatown, is a trendy dessert shop that serves a variety of treats, including toast, coffee, tea and, most notably, “bingsoo,” or “shaved ice” in Korean.
The restaurant is called Sul & Beans because the Korean word “sul” translates to “snow” in English, a direct reference to the snow-like consistency of the café’s shaved ice. The word “beans” alludes to both coffee beans and red beans, common ingredients in many Asian desserts.
The café has locations in both Rowland Heights and Los Angeles, and prices range from $3.45 to $10.95.
Sul & Beans is small and clean, cast in darker tones—mahogany, black and slate-grey—and accented with brighter colors. The counter, which spans the restaurant, is a vivid lemon-yellow, and brilliant white lanterns dangle from the ceiling.
Sul & Beans is a cafeteria-style restaurant, where customers order food at one end of the counter and pick up their desserts once their given number is called.
Each bowl of shaved ice is served in a large bowl with a side of condensed milk. The bingsoo consists of alternating layers of milk-based ice and a condiment, depending on the flavor of the dish.
The strawberry bingsoo is a favorite of many Sul & Beans customers. Thin blankets of ice alternate with layers of puréed strawberries, forming a glistening mound of pink shaved ice. The dome is then covered in slices of strawberries, which are arranged in an overlapping pattern similar to the scales of a fish. The entire dish is finally drenched in strawberry syrup and condensed milk and topped off with four small rice cakes.
Simply put, the strawberry bingsoo is exquisite. The strawberries are overwhelming in their acidity and sweetness but are balanced by the feathery lightness of the ice. The rice cakes are chewy and slightly salty; they are simply wonderful additions to an already brilliantly executed dish.
The mango bingsoo, however, was disappointing. The mango shaved ice is formed in precisely the same fashion as the strawberry; however, layers of mango purée and chunks of summery fruit replace strawberry syrup and red berries. The bingsoo is airy and sweet, but the mangoes are fibrous and bruised, which may be attributed to the fact that the fruits are no longer in season. Even so, the combination of ice and mango is not as satisfying as the blend of shaved ice and strawberry.
The green tea bingsoo is a popular dish recommended for those searching for an authentic Asian dessert. The shaved ice is coated in matcha green tea powder and sprinkled with toasted almonds and dried dates. A heap of red beans and four rice cakes are balanced atop the mound of ice, and as always, condensed milk trickles down the surface of the dessert. The green tea powder is strong and aromatic and blends well with the sweet red beans and savory rice cakes. The nuttiness of the almonds and subtle sweetness of the dates bring out the grassy, earthy flavors of the matcha, and their combined crunchiness adds a variety of texture to the dish. The green tea bingsoo is a complex dessert, but each component helps tie the entire dish together.
All in all, the bingsoo at Sul & Beans is simply wonderful. This café should be a definite go-to for anyone searching for a refreshing bowl of Korean shaved ice.