It's hinted in name, but only when you walk into Sweet Town, a new Chinatown confectionary shop, do you realize there's a particular earnestness going on. Owners Steve Zhou and Jianting Tan have decorated the space with the popular Japanese animated bear character, Rilakkuma — and his sometime companion Korilakkuma — in multiple manifestations.
They're illustrated across the wall and counter; they come as plush toys in various shapes and costumes, stacked on shelves. And if you choose to enjoy your dessert on the premises, you'll see Rilakkuma peeking at you as a tissue box cover. The couple wanted the decor themed to match a sweets menu that includes shaved snow, mochi soup and bubble tea.
Open since Friday, Oct. 25, Sweet Town is in one of the neighborhood's busier retail centers. Zhou says he chose Chinatown over locations in San Gabriel Valley in part because they noticed the area lacked options for the type of desserts they wanted to serve.
The menu leads with a few renditions of the Taiwanese treats known as shaved snow and shaved ice, each available in flavors like mango, green tea and vanilla. Every order comes with your choice of two toppings, such as coconut jelly, mango mochi and pudding.
Shaved snow is a particularly eye-catching dessert. It's a newer iteration of shaved ice that's infused with condensed milk and often accented in secondary flavor. During a recent visit, our shaved snow topped with red bean and grass jelly caught the attention of two elderly women on their way out of the shop. Zhou explained what goes into shaved ice, leading into a brief shop-wide chat about the treat.
A list of sweets — think red bean soup and condensed milk tapioca — you'd find at dessert café in Hong Kong comes on the next page. The mochi (purple yam, taro or sweet potato) used in their already popular mochi soups are made in-house. There's also gelato, sorbet, crème brulée, mango mousse cake and a banana split.
Upon the recommendation of friends, the couple first tried and fell for shaved snow two years ago at Class 302 in Rowland Heights during a trip to L.A. from Northern California. They'd return each time they came down for a visit.
When it came to opening their own shop, they traveled to Guangdong to learn first-hand how to make various desserts from a local shop. It took them five months to build Sweet Town, overhauling what used to be a photo lab to construct a kitchen and a dining space.
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