Summer, Shibuya and Soho. How does one find a positive correlation between the three? Piccadilly. Yes, we are visiting it again. Third time’s the charm, my friends. Along Shaftesbury Avenue where more than 50% of London’s famous theatres live, in the very heart of Chinatown, there is a Japanese restaurant called Shibuya Soho.
One summer evening, on the quest to quench our thirst after supper, my London gangastronomist and I decided to grace the restaurant with our presence after having heard excellent reviews about their desserts. From the outside, it was not apparent that the restaurant spans two levels (it has a basement level, where the sushi bar is located) – it looked very cosy and homey. The wait staff was comprised of those of Japanese nationalities – a reassuring indication of the authenticity of the dishes being offered.
This is where my Bing-diction began. Shibuya Soho is one of the very few restaurants in London to serve the Bingsu. What is this Bingsu I speak of? It is to Koreans like Ice Kacang is to Malaysians; like Halo-Halo is to Filipinos; like Baobing is to Chinese – yeah, you get the gist. Except.. The Bingsu is made of shaved frozen milk rather than good ol’ ice.
They have a very limited selection of Bingsus to choose from: Kinako, Matcha, Oreo, Strawberry and Mango – all being offered in two sizes with a standard pricing of Small (GBP5.90) and Regular (GBP7.90). The regular size is definitely for sharing – good for three I’d say, whereas the small size is good for two (or one, if you’re rather peckish). Because I was with a big group, I had the luxury of trying three Bingsus at once: Matcha, Oreo and Strawberry. All of them came with a pot of condensed milk – refillable at a small price.
Now, I must confess one thing – this was my first Bingsu ever. I had never heard of Bingsu before, so I didn’t know what to expect from it. One word: MashaAllah! It was the greatest paradox of all time – winter meets summer – I had never seen a snow mountain so white and green at the same time. I had a brief thought – Was it nearing the end of the world? Certainly the end of my world before my encounter with Bingsu. The shaved frozen milk sits delicately in a bowl, it was almost too beautiful to eat. Alas, in the battle of hunger vs aesthetics, hunger won (correction: hunger always wins). The moment I stuffed a spoonful into my mouth, I had a moment of epiphany. How did I get this far without Bingsu in my life? The frozen milk shavings were so tiny it felt like powder, they melted instantaneously; so cold my tongue felt like it had a frost-bite; so soft it felt like snow. It was pure milk. The matcha powder wasn’t overpowering – it was just right. Sprinkled with matcha powder and crowned with sweetened azuki beans and almond flakes? A sinful combination.
Now that we’ve broken the First Bingsu curse, this review post will resume its cool and will contain nothing but honesty (biasness aside).
Next up is the Oreo Bingsu. I believe in experiencing two great loves in a lifetime. That night, I encountered both at the same time – a good dilemma to be caught in. It was the dream oreo dessert. The milk shavings were generously sprinkled with crushed oreo, poured over with chocolate syrup, the conventional whipped cream and then topped with an oreo like a cherry on top – but of course, what’s an oreo dessert without an actual oreo? I was dreading the sight of the bottom of the bowl.
And finally, the Strawberry Bingsu (left). First off, 0 points for aesthetics (or lack thereof). Now that’s out of the way, this was equally as good as the other two. Self-explanatory: It was just milk shavings doused with strawberry syrup, decorated with freshly sliced strawberries. This was seemingly the healthiest among all – take away the fresh strawberries, it’s just as sinful as the rest.
If I ever find myself back in London again, Shibuya Soho would definitely be in the top 10 of my to-visit list. The ambience was unique – I felt like I wasn’t in London, with the Japanese songs being played in the background. Service was efficient – wait staff were friendly and accommodating to our pesky requests (countless of condensed milk refills, please!). I couldn’t fault it for anything – it would be a de-bing-quency for me not to revisit.
Hafizah Sufian was a freelance writer for Muslyfe.