Rolled Thai ice cream comes to Barracks Road

Try the dessert made famous by Facebook, but one trip to J-Petal is probably enough


If it is deeply important to you that your ice cream is rolled in front of you, then by all means go to J-Petal as soon as possible, but if not, you will probably be happier just spending your money at Ben & Jerry’s.

Marlena Becker | Cavalier Daily

J-Petal is a dessert shop that has recently opened in Barracks Road Shopping Center. Serving Japanese crepes, Thai ice cream and specialty drinks in light bulb shaped glasses, there has definitely never been anything like J-Petal in Charlottesville before. 

If your Facebook newsfeed looks anything like mine then you are no stranger to the concept of rolled ice cream, one of J-Petal’s biggest claims to fame in Charlottesville so far. This dessert trend involves pouring liquid sweet cream onto an ice cold grill, mixing it with toppings and then spreading the mixture thin so that it freezes. The ice cream is then pushed into rolls and topped with extras like strawberries, graham crackers and lychee. The entire process is fun to watch, and I would definitely recommend at the very least looking up a video the next time you are bored. 

This rolled ice cream was what originally attracted me to the restaurant, so I knew that was what I was going to order. J-Petal offers four different flavors of bases — vanilla, chocolate, green tea and thai tea. After you choose your base, there are eight different options for mix-ins, including fruit, cookies and Nutella. 

After the ice cream is rolled you get to choose three free toppings and a drizzle. The drizzles include chocolate syrup, condensed milk and honey. The ice cream at J-Petal comes at a steep price of $6.75, and they only offer one size.

I ordered a vanilla base with oreos mixed in, topped with whipped cream, strawberries, Pocky sticks — or chocolate covered biscuits — and drizzled with Nutella. Looking back, I think it was a mistake to order something so — for lack of a better word — American. Even though it was made in a fancy, new process, at the end of the day what I ordered really just tasted like cookies and cream ice cream topped with whipped cream. 

In other words, something I could eat at my house for much less money. I would definitely recommend trying something more adventurous like the green tea or thai tea base and sticking to a more fruity theme for toppings. 

Although the presentation was very nice, I found the rolled ice cream itself only okay. Initially the ice cream rolls are so cold that not only did they freeze my mouth, but they also crumble when you try take a scoop. I found myself waiting for it to thaw just so the ice cream was creamy enough, which to me seems to pretty much defeat the purpose. 

Yes, the process is fun to watch, but when it comes to the ice cream you can find much better for much less. The topping selection was, again, good, not great. They do have more toppings than your standard ice cream parlor, and the fresh fruit is a nice touch. However, most frozen yogurt shops in Charlottesville have a much better selection, and J-Petal is very stingy with the amount they give you — I only had one strawberry on mine. So, if you’re just going for the toppings, I recommend trying Sweet Frog in the North Wing of Barrack’s Road, which is right across the street, instead. 

It is clear from the moment you walk into J-Petal that it is a chain. Everything from the large TVs displaying the menu where the description of every option was accompanied by a photo to the weird neon waterfall in the back of the seating area — everything felt just a little too artificial. 

Of course, chains are not a bad thing necessarily, but as a Charlottesville native my heart always sinks a little when a restaurant that has several identical twins in other parts of the country joins the scene. On the plus side, J-Petal is clearly clean, there is plenty of seating — though no seating outside which is a shame — and they were very helpful in explaining how the rolled ice cream process works. 

In conclusion, I am glad that I tried J-Petal because if I hadn’t I would always be curious if all of the hype about rolled ice cream. However, I am not in a hurry to return soon — or at least not for the ice cream. So, if it is deeply important to you that your ice cream is rolled in front of you, then by all means go to J-Petal as soon as possible, but if not, you will probably be happier just spending your money at Ben & Jerry’s.

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