Tableside guacamole has long been a leader in performance-art cuisine, but one inventive dessert may soon seize the throne. Rolled ice cream, a creation originally popularized on the streets of Thailand, is being sold at a rapidly increasing number of US locations. The first Massachusetts locale, Frollz, opened in Saugus in December, and the first in Boston, Hi B3ar, debuted Aug. 20.
Though ice cream rolls look straight out of Instagram heaven, the process is straightforward. A flavored milky base is poured onto an ice-cold metal surface, freezing into an ice cream-like texture within seconds. The base is then prodded and chopped up with a spatula until solid enough to be spread thin across the surface. With careful spatula technique, the mixture is pushed forward in stages, each push forming a separate roll.
At Frollz, a colorful kiosk located in Saugus's Square One Mall, customers have a choice among five flavors: vanilla, strawberry, mango, chocolate, and coffee. The base rate is $4.99, with the option to mix in any of the roughly 15 offered toppings for 50 cents each. These range from fresh fruits to baked bites.
Frollz is owned by Elias Brassitos and managed by his brother, Hikmat. Brassitos, a graduate student at Northeastern University studying mechanical engineering, first came up with the idea to sell the cylindrical treat after seeing it made online.
"We've all watched those YouTube videos," Brassitos said. "I had the idea: Why not actually do this thing?"
After months of scouting locations in Braintree and on Boston's Newbury Street, Brassitos finally settled on Square One Mall due to cost and space availability. He put his engineering skills to work and built the kiosk almost entirely on his own, preparing for the December opening. Since then, business has been, well, rolling in.
"People really like it," Brassitos said. "We get a lot of repeat customers. We've even had kids who buy it multiple times a day."
Another explanation for rolled ice cream's popularity is initially overlooked — its taste. The fruits used at most locations are fresh, and at Frollz, many of the toppings are imported from Italy. Frollz's milky base is made using a secret recipe, which Brassitos vaguely referred to as a "combination of multiple things."
The result? A silky, creamy dessert that's refreshing and light on the taste buds. Chopped fruits add a welcome burst of sweetness, and the chocolate-based toppings bring textural crunch.
Boston's first taste of rolled ice cream arrived in the form of Hi B3ar, located in Allston. Hi B3ar uses the same technique as Frollz but offers additional flavors such as matcha, fresh lime, blueberry, coconut and pineapple, and banana. Here, each order is $6.95, but all toppings are included and unlimited — even the toasted-on-site marshmallows.
"When you order ice cream, you never know how many toppings you want," Hi B3ar owner Ying "Panda" Huang said. "You want to see the ice cream first, and then choose your toppings. . . . I want to give people unlimited toppings, so that way they can choose whatever they want, and it'll make the ice cream look prettier."
Huang, a Quincy resident, chose Allston as a location for the shop due to its young, ice cream-loving demographic. She first experienced the rolled ice cream craze in New York, waiting in line for more than an hour just to order, and knew it would be popular among Allston's overwhelmingly college-age residents.
Huang was right. Throughout Hi B3ar's first weekend, the shop was consistently crowded, and the line often stretched up to or a bit past the doorway.
"To me, it's kind of special because you can see how your ice cream is made in front of you with fresh fruits, unlike the kinds of ice cream you buy from the grocery store," Huang said.
The rolled ice cream trend is flourishing, and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Unlike the hyped frozen yogurt of the past, Huang said, the rolled product has continued appeal because customers are engaged in the process.
"A lot of people have never seen this before," Huang said. "They want to see how their ice cream is made, and it's interesting that it's made in front of them."
Frollz, Square One Mall, 1201 Broadway, Saugus, 781-231-9087. Hi B3ar, 147 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-208-8216, www.hib3ar.com.