The sundae of my youth is still alive but smaller and has way too many bananas.
As a kid growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia, my supreme happiness was found in a sundae, a Hot Fudge Sundae from Swensen’s, to be exact. At Jakarta’s sole Swensen’s store found in the Ratu Plaza mall, I can still remember the plastic ice cream models displayed outside the shop. They had a singular goal to entice and enchant youngsters like me, and it worked every time.
But back then, Swensen’s was a chimera, my impossible dream, if you will. I was an overweight ten year old, and in my dad’s eyes, much too heavy with too little self-control to be let loose in a den of temptation. I still vividly recall the time he forbade me to join my best friends for an ice cream treat after we’d all done well on this certain Math test – oh, how I cried and cried!
But as I grew up, I learned that tears dry, weight falls off, and best of all, Swensen’s is still around.
Whenever I travel, I can actually feel my heart glow whenever I spot a Swensen’s. I’ve splurged on sundaes in Bangkok, and Cambodia, and they say there’s one in Singapore too, but I’ve never seen it. And I always order a Hot Fudge Sundae for old time’s sake, and just because now I can eat as many of them as I want.
When I hear that Swensen’s opened at the Mall of Asia (MOA) last September, my heart doesn’t just glow, it leaps. I get giddy just thinking about all the sundaes I can line up to sate my icy desires. You must know though, that to get to MOA, I need a good reason. That mall holds no appeal for me – it’s too big, it’s too crowded, it’s too far, it’s just too … But I’ll go there for caramel popcorn, the best-stocked store of Booksale and now, Swensen’s.
Inside, the space is so typical Swensen’s that I could’ve closed my eyes and pretended that I was back in Jakarta again. Red leather booths, those trademark Swensen’s lamps, and die-cut sundae designs as décor; it’s a nostalgic rush.
Since I’m not at MOA often, I’m going for broke while I’m here. First thing I order is – need you ask? – my ever beloved hot fudge sundae, properly called a Hot Fudge Bonanza Split (P210). When it arrives, I feel such a surge of excitement that I want to squeal. Scoops of vanilla ice cream are stained with hot fudge and butterscotch, and to make the mix even merrier, there’s a frenzy of almonds crowned by tufts of whipped cream on which sit a cherry and the eponymous Swensen’s wafer. I say the ice cream is “stained” with hot fudge because lavished with it it certainly isn’t. Now is not the time to be sparing, Swensen’s! So I immediately order a side of hot fudge and expedite the pouring over of it.
In all my Swensen’s memories, I can’t recall there ever being bananas in my hot fudge sundaes. I don’t mind bananas, they’re one of my favorite fruits but here I find that they interfere with my access to the hot fudge and the ice cream. At one point, peeved by this seeming barrage of bananas, I fork them all out and leave them on the table, like the forlorn fruit they are. The store could afford to use just half of the bananas that they cram in lest they start calling it the Hot Fudge Banana Bonanza.
A Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Shake (P165) serves as my palate cleanser. It’s sufficiently thick and goes down well. At the front, Swensen’s has a universe of interesting flavors that I like the sound of, such as the titillatingly titled Sticky Chewy Chocolate, Almond Praline Delight, and of course the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup because I adore peanut butter anything.
Swensen’s has these irresistibly retro drinking glasses.
Behind the counter, enthusiastic soda jerks competently create one sundae after another. There’s a constant influx of customers and it’s a visual treat to see sundry sundaes pass by my table. I see that a group’s ordered an Earthquake, that eight-scoop behemoth, something I hope to order one day just for me and maybe a plus one.
Back to our sundaes, my Bin doesn’t see anything wrong with the hot fudge sundae so he proceeds to hoover it down. Meantime, I end up loving his order of Nutty Crispy Tower (P245). When it comes to food, texture means everything to me, sometimes even more than flavor and this sundae has it in spades. Every spoonful yields a crunch of almonds and praline deliciously enmeshed in scoops of the Macadamia and Mocha Almond Fudge ice creams. I love this.
At Swensen’s, every goblet or dish used is frosted, meaning that it’s kept chilled until used. It’s an old-fashioned trick that’s visually appealing and keeps the ice cream colder longer. The goblets are so thick and heavy that I can imagine using them as weapons on someone who attempts to take away my sundaes or wants one taste too many. Again however, maybe there’s a misconnect between memory and reality, but I just don’t recollect the goblets holding so little ice cream. “When we were kids, everything looked bigger, hon,” my Bin says, by way of explanation. I sigh in resignation.
The Oreo Cookies ‘n Cream (P265) is a crowd pleaser: Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream plus hot fudge plus Oreo cookies studded throughout, what’s not to like? This creation merits a chocolate dipped wafer and cherry but there’s too little chocolate sauce and here are those blasted bananas again.
G/F South Wing
SM MALL of Asia
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