329 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
To commemorate the very last time we’ll see Walter White grace our screens, this post will feature a little bit of science. Now I didn’t do so well in high school science (yes, DESPITE being Asian and DESPITE having siblings who are actually quite alright at it) so don’t worry, you don’t see a lot of Latin words and symbols that make no sense (to me anyway). Instead, this post will be all about gelati.
More specifically, a place that creates gelati using liquid nitrogen.
Yep, this concept was introduced by two crazy Sydneysiders, Min Chai and Angee Yeoh. A while ago, celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal was doing all sorts of crazy – and edible – things with liquid nitrogen. I guess Chai and Yeoh thought it was very neat and subsequently, N2 Extreme Gelato was born.
The first store opened up in Sydney not too long ago and it wasn’t long before a Melbourne store was established. Despite not having a sweet tooth, I love ice cream more than I love the fact that the AFL season has just finished. Thus, when I saw that Ashley mentioned the opening of the Melbourne store on her Facebook, I was there the following day (keen, much?).
N2’s Melbourne store looks right at home in grungy Brunswick Street with Astroturf and milk crates all over the place – they even had the whole communal dining thing happening by way of a ‘bed’ by the window for groups to sit on. They also had this massive speel on the wall, pretty much saying how awesome they are. While the wall was kind of cute, I did find that some of the stuff written on it was a bit OTT (so if I ate a gelato here, my life would be as ‘tranquil and peaceful as Milford Sound’?! I DON’T THINK SO!).
To keep things fresh, N2’s menu changes weekly. You might get deconstructed pavlova one week while Earl Grey tea with dulce de leche might be on the menu the following week. N2 had a buttered popcorn gelato a while ago but unfortunately, I was too busy (or too lazy, whatever) to get my arse into the store when they had it so I missed out. You snooze, you lose, I suppose.
All gelati here are made to order. Once you place your order, the liquid nitrogen does its thang and within minutes, you have a cup of creamy smooth gelati that’s almost elastic. $6 gets you a cup with one flavour and although the menu board tells us that you also have the option of getting two flavours, it’s not recommended because two lots of gelati would be way too much.
The first time I went, I ordered the Me So Happy. I love salted anything on desserts so I knew I was in for a good time. The milk gelato was creamy and yes, very elastic as promised. Think of it as a teh tarik (Malaysian pulled tea) but in ice cream form. As for the taste, the sticky miso sauce was sinfully salty nutty, creating a lovely contrast between the sweeter gelato. With a sprinkle of peanuts to round the whole thing off, the whole thing certainly made me so happy.
For my second visit, I got Dave and my workmate, Peter to come along. Dave was quick to get on the crème brûlée flavour, which was slightly more expensive than the standard $6 cup. The crème brûlée was blowtorched and all, which meant that you could crack it Amelie-style but instead of custard, you got ice cream. While Dave loved his gelato, he did mention that the ice cream was runny just underneath the shell no thanks to the heat of the blowtorch.
Meanwhile, Pete got the rum and raisin gelato. He, too, thought it was delicious thanks to the ‘nice crisp chunks.’ Of what? I’m not too sure; I didn’t try any myself nor would he elaborate. He did manage to finish his off before Dave and I did though, so suffice to say that it was excellent.
Ha, trust me to go for the strangest flavour. I choose the Wiki-leeks, not just because of the cute name but because it was made with a vegetable. Plus, it had croutons! On paper, leek gelati sounds odd but I’ve tried oregano ice cream before and liked it so I figured that this might actually work.
And it did. The guys at N2 captured the essence of a leek soup perfectly in gelati-form. I don’t mean to sound clichéd but if Ms Leek Soup got with a tub of vanilla ice cream, this would be the result. It wasn’t overly sweet and you could almost taste a hint of cream cheese. Weird? Yes. Good? Absolutely.
Generally speaking, we all liked our gelati. I guess my only real criticism would be the fact that $6 gets you a decent-sized tub of just the one flavour whereas you can get a combination of flavours in the one tub if you were to go elsewhere. The reason behind this is that the smallest possible amount of liquid nitrogen yields a cup that size so it’s pretty much impossible to get a little bit of one flavour and a little bit of another. Thus, if you decide that you don’t like the flavour you ordered, you’re pretty much stuck with a whole tub of it.
Although liquid nitrogen gelato seems like a fad more than anything, I reckon N2 has captured the minds and tastebuds of Sydneysiders and Melburnians. While I’d rather go to Spring St Grocer for my gelati fix (because it’s better value for money and because it’s closer), I like that N2 constantly pushes boundaries in terms of technique and flavour combinations and Melbourne definitely isn’t poorer for it.