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Oct 9, 2006 07:09 AM

The Sweet Booth--Chinese ice cream/dessert shop in Oakland Chinatown

I brought avocado and black sesame ice cream from the Sweet Booth to the Chowhound Picnic yesterday, and they were a hit. It's not a new place, but there seems to be no proper post on this fine institution on the board, so here goes:

The Sweet Booth is on the ground floor of Pacific Renaissance Plaza, which is a small mall with a courtyard occupying the block between 8th and 10th and Webster and Franklin in Oakland Chinatown. (Restaurant Peony and the Oakland Public Library Asian Branch are in the same mall).

They have about a half-dozen Asian ice cream flavors, of which the black sesame is superior and the avocado, durian, and mango are excellent (I like the mango better than that of the Bombay Creamery, for instance). There's a very artificial tasting ube, a coconut that's probably fine (but I'm not a coconut fan), an ok taro, and maybe something I've forgotten. There are also a bunch of Dreyer's flavors. Their prices are quite reasonable: $1.95 gets you a heaping scoop which would be a double at many places; a pint is $4.75 and a quart is $8.50.

They also have a long list of smoothies, ices, and tapioca drinks. They're generally good, and the pearl red bean and tapioca paste drink was especially memorable. There's a menu of perhaps a dozen or two Chinese desserts made to order (black fungus, stewed papaya, red bean soup...). They're less fancy than a place like Creations, but also cheaper. My favorite among them is their ginger milk custard ($2.95). It's been outstanding each time I've ordered it, though the intensity of the ginger varies (from strong to burning; I like it both ways, so I haven't experimented with making requests).

The hours are 11-8:30 M-Th, 11-9:30 10-9:30 SaSu. I've came as long as an hour after closing and found the owner cleaning up, and he's always been happy to serve me ice cream. Its atmosphere is pleasant: it's a small, densely packed shop, with a combination of handwritten and slatted letter board menus, with small tables for about six people with plastic chairs bolted on. The courtyard of the mall also has some places to sit, but it's rarely very crowded.


The Sweet Booth
388 9th St # 155, Oakland, 94607
(510) 893-3633

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  1. David, have you been visiting the Sweet Booth for awhile now? I ask, mostly because of your comment about the pearl milk tea. In my previous experience, Sweet Booth had among the worst, if not the worst, tapioca milk tea in Oakland Chinatown, both in terms of tea and pearl quality. However, it's probably been at least a few years since I've had the tea there, just because I became frustrated. So I was interested to see your positive assessment of it. Has the Sweet Booth tea made a comeback?

    8 Replies
    1. re: shortexact

      I tried the boba drinks @ Sweet Booth once several years back and hated it... decided that there is and probably will always be my fave: Sweetheart Cafe on 9th (even the boba itself is sweetened, and its always as fresh as can be -- believe me, I've tried boba w/ stale tapioca: YUCK).

      1. re: S U

        Yeah, Sweetheart's great, and has long remained one of my very favorites. It's definitely well worth the short 2 block walk (if one is already at Sweet Booth).

        1. re: shortexact

          I can't remember the name of the place on Webster near the corner of 9th (across the street from Cam Huong & Sum Yee), but it's part of the same block that houses the Pac Ren Plaza, and they have very good tapioca milk teas there (along with various ice cream flavors, which I've never tried).

          1. re: Eugene Park

            I can't remember the name of that place either, but they make tapioca drinks with fresh fruit (i.e. watermelon slush) that are very good.

            There's also the new Shooting Star Cafe on Webster at 11th that has a wide variety of drinks.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Perhaps you're referring to Ming Yuen? On the perimeter of the Pac Ren Plaza, but on Webster, between 9th and 10th.

              Thanks for mentioning Shooting Star. I hadn't heard about it, so it'd be great to check out next time I'm in the area.

              1. re: shortexact

                That sounds like the right location. I'll be interested to hear your take on Shooting Star, as I don't have any cultural frame of reference to judge places like that. The guy I talked to there said that their flavorings were less Americanized than other places. I have no idea if he was just blowing smoke, or if that's actually true.

                Visit to Shooting Star:

      2. re: shortexact

        Shortexact, I have been going there for a few years, but I was too glib regarding the drinks: I usually just get desserts. I've had four or five drinks from their (long) menu, mainly smoothies and ices, but the only tapioca-containing drink I had (perhaps a year ago) is the one I mentioned, and that wasn't just regular tapioca milk tea.

        Do you have any other desserts or drinks (not boba, I guess!) I didn't mention to commend there? I certainly haven't tried everything.

        (Are you a mathematician?)

        1. re: David Farris

          [Side note: David, looks like you caught me :) I'm a mathematician, in the sense that I studied mathematics in college. Since you got the reference, I assume something similar is true of you?]

          I've had one or two dessert items there in the past, though it's been a long time, so I can't remember what they were. I do recall thinking those were better than the tea. Probably a repeat visit is in order, and then I could post something a bit more recent and intelligent :)

      3. Any idea if the ice creams are imported, say from Taiwan, or locally made? I'm asking cuz I've had some very good black sesame ice cream that came from Taiwan at a restaurant that's now out of business and I'd love to find another source.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I'm also curious, but I've never asked.

        2. If memory serves, and unless ownership hasn't changed hands that the Oakland shop as well as the dessert/ice/cream/bubble tea drink place between the car accessory store and 99 Ranch in Milpitas Square are owned by the same folk(s). I never paid attention to the ice cream at the Milpitas shop but it would be interesting to know if they carry simliar flavors, though I do recall years ago they did carry Dreyers.

          1. Passed by the Milpitas location the other day. Can't remember the English name but it definitely had the character sweet in it. Took a quick peek inside and they claim to offer not just pearl drinks, but some standard Dreyers flavor ice cream and also lychee (no black sesame). They also offer Cantonese style desserts, the ginger milk steamed egg white custard, and a dish or two that seemed to have been lifted from Hui Lau Shan (sago, fruit, etc). There's also the instore offerings of dried Chinese candy, chuba chupp lolipops etc.

            1 Reply
            1. re: K K

              Interesting! I didn't remark on that shop. I note that the Oakland one sometimes doesn't have all their unusual flavors out, but often has them in the back somewhere, so do ask if you don't see black sesame.