Gummy goodness oozes from a pastel pink swirl. Rivers of saccharine soft serve melt along the edges of a paper cup. Fruity scents permeate the room, and quirky flavors dominate the menu.
The creamy confectionery tantalizes onlookers, but its desserts ultimately disappoint.
Hailing from South Korea, Sobok is relatively new to Los Angeles. Its Buena Park, California location opened in October, and its shop in Koreatown hosted its grand opening ceremony Feb. 2. The chain prides itself on its natural, handmade ingredients and unique combination of rice cake and ice cream.
Since neither of Sobok’s locations are in Westwood, the transportation costs can be straining for college students looking for Instagrammable eateries near campus. The distance would be worth it if the dessert’s presentation was prize-winning and flavor was astounding. But unfortunately, this is not the case.
The shop is tucked away in the cramped corner of a strip mall, and does not stand out. There are a few tables and chairs outside that overlook the noisy LA streets, and the view of a construction site down the block is not conducive to comfortable outdoor seating. The inside walls are coated in pristine white paint, establishing a subdued, upscale look. Long plastered countertops are meant for communal dining, although the lack of decor doesn’t suggest a warm, inviting environment.
Sobok, the shop’s signature ice cream combination of Korean oats and honey, serves as the base for all flavors that are offered. The dessert’s texture was delectably creamy, but the product itself tasted like bland, unsweetened almond milk. But strawberry, matcha and salted-corn flavored sweeteners can be added to give the dish a more powerful taste.
The consistency of the strawberry soft serve, which costs $5.95, matched that of the sobok, although this time it was bursting with enthusiastic flavor. The strawberry taste was natural, not teeming with unnecessary artificial ingredients. But after a while, the absence of variety made the ice cream taste dull. The bottom of the dish also included a random sampling of sunflower seeds, but the sweet and savory combination was not particularly appealing.
Sobok’s uniquely crafted ice balls, however, are the most revolutionary items on the menu, and can be purchased as add-ons to the soft serve. Described as reverse mochi, they are essentially doughy rice cakes coated in ice cream. The juxtaposition of the chewy rice paste and creamy soft serve is a perfectly cohesive fusion of two contrasting textures. However, the restaurant pairs each soft serve with a specific flavor of ice ball and is restrictive of patrons’ individual liberty, not allowing customers to mix and match flavors of ice balls and ice cream. In compensation, sets of eight or 14 ice balls are available, and flavors in these sets can be varied.
An amalgam of salty, sweet and sticky, the overall product was distinctive in taste. But it didn’t make up for the restaurant’s lackluster aesthetic and uninspiring minimalism of the ice cream’s appearance. Their decor isn’t meant to cultivate the quintessential social media photo-op because it lacks the vibrancy and originality of other well-known eateries. Maybe choosing to spotlight the food instead of the design was a deliberate tactic, but this was merely a missed opportunity.
In an era where visual spectacles seem to be the gold standard for dessert, it isn’t enough to present a monochromatic dish. If the food isn’t going to be mind-blowing, the presentation must at least be worth bragging about.