ONCE upon a time on a busy Melbourne street, a little Asian dessert shop called Dessert Story opened its doors to throngs of eager customers.
Well, to be exact, the busy Melbourne street was Swanson St and it had its official opening last Friday (May 11).
Dessert Story, like its name suggests, is a haven for those with a sweet tooth, offering a range of cold and hot delights commonly found in Taiwan and Hong Kong – a fact you’ll be hard-pressed to miss from the dozens of red lanterns hanging from the ceiling to the menus inscribed with Chinese characters.
For those who’ve never sampled Asian desserts before, come prepared with a sense of adventure, as here, you’ll find ginko nuts, red beans and taro in place of chocolate sprinkles and whipped cream.
Popular traditional desserts include mango pomelo sago with mango juice, and herbal jelly with herbal ice and taro balls.
But for those looking for something more familiar, Dessert Story’s version of ice cream – snow ice – is a must try and best-seller. Snow ice comes served as a small mountain of fluffy, flavoured snow, produced by freezing a combination of cream, milk, water, sugar and fruit before shaving it into ribbons on a machine. The milk-flavoured snow ice is so popular it was sold out by the time the Meld Tasting Team got there at 9pm (more on that below).
At Dessert Story, snow ice can be served with drizzles of syrup, fresh fruit, pudding, red beans and peanuts, but unique here are the “popping pearls” - small, translucent bubbles filled with mango juice, which add a literal burst of flavour to your dessert as they pop in your mouth.
Don’t worry about not having enough to eat though as dessert portions are generous and you’ll often see a dessert being shared by two to four people – and you’re definitely getting your money’s worth with prices ranging from $4.90 to just under $10.
Eddie Lo, from Dessert Story, says most ingredients for the desserts are imported from Taiwan, including frozen blocks of the popular snow ice, which is shaved onsite before it is served.
Business is booming for the franchise.
The first Dessert Story outlet opened in Chinatown a few months ago to long queues of people after a seat in the dessert shop. It was a similar scene at the Swanston St opening last week.
Now, the late-night eatery is so popular, it has begun allocating numbers to waiting patrons – with waiting times taking up to 20 minutes or longer for a larger table.
Eddie says they now have plans to open 20 more outlets across Australia, with five set to open in Adelaide this week. In Melbourne, shops are planned for Box Hill and Burwood East, among others.
Meld sampled some of the desserts on offer at Dessert Story with the help of our friends. Here’s what we thought:
*Note: The scores below are averages. The tasters’ individual opinions may differ from the numbers you see here.
Mango Snow Ice with Crystal Jelly, Mango Juice and Popping Pearls – $9.90
If you’re a mango lover, you’re bound to enjoy this dessert topped with lashings of mango syrup, chunks of jelly and pieces of fresh mango. Unfortunately, the mango snow ice was a bit of an overkill for us, even causing someone to label the dish a “bland landscape of mango”. That being said, this dessert is typically served with milk-flavoured snow ice – which is what we’d recommend if you’re going to try this. Get your orders in quick though as this flavour seems to sell out by nightfall! Special mention also has to go to the popping pearls. As mentioned earlier, they’re a unique addition to the dessert although our pearls didn’t seem to pop quite as much as they should.
Average score: 7/ 10
Taro balls, taro mash, pearls, and red beans in herbal ice
This dessert was an interesting combination of different textures and flavours. We were disappointed by the taro mash though as it was more akin to chunks than mash. We recommend waiting for the herbal ice to melt to truly get the best out of this dessert.
Average score: 6.5/10
Mixed Pudding with Grass Jelly and Pearls – $5.50
This dessert was an unlikely mix of pudding, jelly, pearls and herbal ice, as the name suggests. Some of us weren’t too keen on the pudding, finding its texture unappealing and the taste too synthetic.
Average score: 6/ 10
Black Glutinous Rice with Glutinous Rice Balls – $6.50
This traditional Asian dessert received mixed reviews. Some of us found it not quite sweet enough while others thought it stayed true to its roots and was a comforting taste of home.
Average score: 6.5 / 10
Mango Snow Ice with Red Bean, Pearls and Mango Pudding – $8.90
Again, this dessert was meant to be served with milk-flavoured snow ice but as that was sold out, we were given mango snow ice instead. We found this rather similar to the previous snow ice dessert we tried but the beans and pearls gave this added texture and variety. Recommended for fans of the Malaysian ais kacang.
Average score: 7.5/ 10
While we think there is room for improvement with some of the desserts we tried here, we were generally excited by the colourful and varied selection on offer at Dessert Story. As Dessert Story’s Eddie Lo rightly pointed out, it would take us days to go through the entire menu - and we look forward to going back again to (hopefully) try them all.
Special thanks to Charles, Leon, Alvin and Sonya for being our taste testers!
Have you been to Dessert Story? What was your favourite dessert? Tell us below.