After having tried most known ice cream shops in Rhode Island through food competition events and travels with friends, I had to try these new ones. These two new unique shops that recently opened in the area have drawn crowds of people, including myself, wanting to try something different. While they do indeed offer something different on the menu than your standard cone and ice cream fare, I left equally disappointed in both places after trying what they had to offer.
Update July 6, 2022: Click here for Kow Kow follow-up.
Summary: Fairly overpriced for what you get, it’s just a scoop of regular ice cream wrapped in a large waffle. Small amount of toppings.
Ice Cream: 3/10 – bland, below average
Waffle: 4/10 – bland, OK texture
Price: 3/10 – overpriced
Service: 4/10 – friendly, first ice cream waffle order melted as they took too long to make second one
Kow Kow, once a food truck, now has a physical store. They’re now situated in the dense college community of the east side of Providence, home of Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design. They offer something that appeals to not only the college crowd but also perhaps even more so towards the large Asian student population: Hong Kong bubble egg waffles. Specifically, Hong Kong waffles that are wrapped around ice cream. Originating in Hong Kong and having a several decade old history, these have made their way around the world and people have fallen in love with its uses and how unique looking it is. And I agree, I can’t say I’ve seen anything like it, and I have a ton of ideas should I get my hands on a waffle maker. With that in mind, I had to pay a visit.
Kow Kow is first and foremost, a cute shop with a popular social media which posts their alluring, delicious looking ice creams. Indeed, even upon entering, a large colorful menu plastered on their wall greets with you their many different options. The shop is small-medium sized and has a variety of ice creams and condiments in view at the counter, reminding me of a typical ice cream shop. Overall, it’s very modern and hip looking, which is just another appealing point to the overwhelming college student presence.
Let’s get to the food. Well, their social media didn’t lie, it’s beautiful. The staff decorate these perfectly! I don’t think there’s any other way to make them look better! Being a chocolate and sweets lover, I ended up picking out their death by chocolate as well as their nutty berry ones. But, here’s when the first issue arose. After the first one was made and handing me it, they got to work on the second while completing other orders. Note: Due to covid restrictions, I cannot eat inside so I was stuck waiting for the second. After several minutes pass, the second one is finally finished. Unfortunately, the first had already started to melt! But, who cares, it’s ice cream, as long as it tastes good, I don’t mind!
Looking at them both, they both look absolutely fantastic and food porn worthy. So, I dive right in with a huge bite… and… this ice cream tastes… like plain milk chocolate! I go on to the waffle… bland. It’s immediately clear to me they used absolutely no sugar, salt, or seasonings in their batter for the waffle. The berry flavored ice cream is a similar story, with only having a mild fruity flavor. Looking at it more, I realize it’s only one scoop of ice cream wrapped in a Belgian sized waffle, and I paid almost $9 each for these! I feel extremely disappointed and frankly, ripped off. Personally, with that much money, I can not only get so much more, I can get ice cream that tastes a heck of a lot better! Overall, this was a huge letdown for me and I can’t see myself coming back.
Summary: $8 for a bland, mini decorated soft serve. Light toppings. Double-triple the price of what it should be.
Ice Cream: 3/10 – bland and watery tasting, below average overall
Taiyaki: 2/10 – very small, bland, gets soggy quickly, is filled with less than a teaspoon of filling
Price: 1/10 – ripoff
Service: 6/10 – friendly, didn’t make both at once which caused first one to melt a bit
The second shop on the road is Helado Taiyaki. Opened in early 2021, they situate themselves near the bustling downtown Providence. Their shop is a lot similar to Kow Kow, a very modern and decorative shop that poses equally stunning food. They also offer something unique with their ice cream. Instead of a Hong Kong waffle though, it’s a taiyaki biscuit cake. Taiyaki are a crunchy common street food in Japan resembling a tai fish. They’re often stuffed with different types of fillings or eaten as is. In this case, Helado chops off the top and fills it with some softserve ice cream.
As I previously wrote, they’re a lot like Kow Kow when it comes to the decoration and storefront. And, unfortunately like Kow Kow, it was very expensive. The portions were small, smaller than the ones at Kow Kow, and the ice cream was very bland. I even ended up trying two of my favorites: chocolate and vanilla Oreo. And despite being a lover of both these flavors, it all tasted extremely mediocre. It reminded me of typical soft serve from fast food joints but less sweet. The biscuit was also quite soggy when I got around to it. And did I mention how small it was?! I still can’t get over the fact that they were so small, I could hold them with just a few fingers!
So, let’s do a rundown: a small serving of soft serve ice cream with toppings would run you around $2 at most places in the area. Helado replaces it with a small taiyaki that can be bought for a quarter at most local Asian markets and demands you pay them quadruple – $8! Personally, I feel like these would be better suited around $3-$4, anything more would be overkill.
However, what also really bothered me was that Helado claims there’s a “latin twist” to their food. Aside from their store name, I see absolutely nothing associated with latin-anything in their food or store. Also interestingly, it appears their an exact copycat of shops that do exactly the same thing with the exact same menu with the exact same prices – just google “taiyaki ice cream” and have a look around. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it seems a bit off to me when they claim that they came up with the idea and are revolutionizing taiyaki food combinations. To sum this shop up, once again, like Kow Kow, I can only say that there’s other local places where you get so more for so much less.
While I enjoy supporting local businesses, especially ones that do things a bit differently, I don’t appreciate being ripped off. Gimmicks are nice, but are they worth paying all that extra money? In some cases, sure, but in this case, after having tried most ice cream shops in Rhode Island, I find that these are bottom tier shops charging a huge premium. Simply put, the pricing no where matches what they offer.