As all good things should, it began with ice cream.
What to many is merely a dessert afterthought, something you plop on the side of pie and call it “a la mode,” was to wife and husband team, Sutheera and Jonathan Bayer, a launch pad for delicious inspiration. They’ve taken the frozen confection to a whole new level of flavor by mixing in the essences and ingredients of Sutheera’s roots in the Chiang Mai region of Northern Thailand.
Though this seems like an unlikely region to find ice cream flavors, the resulting varieties certainly have wow factor. Some seem so natural that it’s amazing they haven’t been widely available sooner (Thai iced tea, Coconut), while others are more experimental, pushing our wimpy American palates to live a little (durian, black sesame seaweed). The final product of this brilliant ice cream invention is called SkyIce, and lucky for us, it doesn’t stop there (though, honestly, the ice cream is so good, it effortlessly stands alone as an incredible, local product).
Undoubtedly Thailand is famous for its food. Yet, dessert is not something that comes to most people’s minds when they think of “going out for Thai.” SkyIce, well aware of this void, has exuberantly filled it with not only their amazing ice cream flavors, but also a whole line up of delectable treats that take cue from traditional Thai desserts and creatively reinvent them.
Originally, the ice cream was packaged and sold to local gourmet markets, but the expansion of unique desserts called for a true brick and mortar restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which opened its doors to an instant cult following.
On a recent visit, we sampled their “dessert sushi” which combines fruit and coconut sticky rice wrapped into a mochi-like rice paper that is rolled and cut to look like a sushi roll. The playful presentation is completed by a small dipping bowl of chocolate with a bright swirl of a sweet green tea, giving the illusion of soy sauce and wasabi. The addictive chewy, delightfully fun dessert disappeared in seconds at our table.
Despite the undoubtedly crave-inducing factor of the substantial and deliciously intriguing dessert list, resist the temptation to order one of everything. You must save room for dinner.
As so many visionaries are wont to do, the owners couldn’t slow down their forward momentum, and they expanded the menu to also feature Northern Thai comfort food. And, just as their desserts, the dishes offered on the food menu stray from the ordinary. Dishes like Khao Sol, a spicy curried soup with a dreamy combination of fresh vegetables, noodles and shrimp, are rare treats that almost never appear on other Thai menus and are worth a trip to SkyIce on their own.
Quite happily, especially with decadent desserts in mind, there is a healthy focus to the savory dishes. Items that are normally fried, here are served “unfried”—magically salty-crispy good that is baked instead. Emphasis is placed on vegetables, lighter soups, and healthy salads, all of which are as incredibly flavorful as they are nutritious. We especially loved the “No-Carb Pad Thai,” one of the most popular items in the restaurant, which swaps strands of green papaya for the typical rice noodle, keeping the luscious flavor of the popular Thai dish, but making it substantially lighter.
Enjoying such dishes, we can’t help but be inspired to feel absolutely guilt free indulging in dessert.
– Ava Fedorov
Photos by Ava Fedorov for Socially Superlative