By DAVID MIN
The Hong-Kong based dessert chain Hui Lau Shan recently opened a store in the Alton Square on August 25th, to much excitement from local residents.
Hui Lau Shan first opened in the 1960s as an herbal tea store, but it wasn’t until 1992 that they popularized their mango-based products and fruit desserts. Today, they have nearly 300 stores open across Asia, with chains in the US and in France.
Upon entering the shop after a long wait, I felt a wave of cool air, and the scent of fresh mango. Inside, there were a variety of lights, with a subtle, cream-colored interior, and several displays showcasing popular menu items in a tantalizing fashion. As I examined them, I was torn between the wide selection of dishes, desserts, and drinks, but I finally settled on the Mango Romance, a three-dish sampler consisting of mochi, ice cream, and the signature chewy ball dish, for a grand total of $7.50.
Each miniature dish was about the size of half a tennis ball and was served with pieces of mango, which were extremely tender and sweet, with a slight hint of tartness. Those mangoes were unlike any I had tasted before, without any trace of hard fibers. The first dish that I tried, mango ice cream, had a surprising coconut taste, which gave the dish a nutty flavor that pairs well with the tangy mango. The second dish, the chewy ball, was composed of mango soup with chewy rice balls and mango cubes floating around. Though the balls themselves were quite bland, the syrupy soup provided a burst of sweetness and accentuated the chewy texture. The final dish, the mochi, was my favorite; coated with coconut flakes, the dough was extremely light and chewy, and the inside held a hidden gem – a single candied piece of mango, which tasted like a maraschino cherry. Every bite of each dish offered a new twist on the mango and played to its strengths in a different way.
One gripe that I had with the Mango Romance was the cost; though it offered variety in dishes, I found myself feeling somewhat unsatisfied with the portion, especially having paid nearly eight dollars for the dish. However, the energetic ambiance of the store, combined with the sweet and soothing flavors of the dish, ultimately created a relaxing and enjoyable experience. In my opinion, despite the wait and the pricey items, Hui Lau Shan is well worth a try – and is somewhere I look forward to go back to.
Hui Lau Shan is located at 5365 Alton Pkwy Ste M, Irvine, CA 92604.