Berkeley: Lush is the Best Gelato in the Bay Area
Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Helado" means ice cream in Spanish, but at Lush in Berkeley, helado also refers to the special type of Argentinian concoction served here that is a cross between ice cream and gelato. Lush is the brainchild of Argentinian-born Federico Murtagh, who had been making helado for local restaurants for several years before opening up Lush. The shop is located in Berkeley's famed Ghetto Gourmet mini-mall, surrounded by such world-renowned food institutions as Chez Panisse, Cheeseboard and Impertial Tea Court. It is definitely worth making the trip to the East Bay to try their helado if you live in or visit San Francisco.

Though this is the first Argentinian-style helado I have tried, I can easily say that the scoops here combine the ying and the yang of ice cream and gelato - rich and creamy, with bold flavor. Lush emphasizes organic ingredients and seasonal fare, often changing its line-up to reflect what is most fresh. That being said, it also has a set of regular flavors that you can often expect to find throughout the year, such as Green Tea or Fromage Blanc Cookie Dough. Lush's flavors tend to be re-interpretations of classics or studies on a central, familiar flavor. You won't find many complex combinations at Lush, although you will find some very interesting, unexpected and well-done flavors, like fresh Basil.

Flavor Tasting Notes


Lush has over 20 tantalizing flavors, which change each day

Basil

Extremely fresh, bright flavor. Although Basil sounds like it would be too weird to have as an ice cream, this flavor tastes exceptionally balanced - almost like a more exotic version of mint ice cream. Extremely smooth texture.

Mascarpone Balsamic Chocolate Graham

This blog's favorite flavor at Lush. This option is one of the few that Lush offers that tries to balance several competing ingredients. The result is a stunning symphony, with the balsamic's intensity being smooth by the mascarpone, and the acidic notes perfectly being rounded out by the chocolate. The Graham cracker is thrown in for good measure, too. The flavors are the star here, although it doesn't hurt that the texture is extremely smooth, too.

Cowgirl Creamery Fromage Blanc with Cookie Dough and Chocolate

This is Lush's take on Cookie Dough, using Fromage Blanc from the world-famous Cowgirl Creamery, an artisinal organic cheese producer located in San Francisco. Fromage Blanc is a type of cheese that resembles yogurt and cream cheese. In this ice cream, it is hard to really detect a noticeable improvement or difference from the use of such an exotic ingredient. There is a light touch of subtle sourness in the cream, along with a hint of saltiness, but the flavor is completely overwhelmed by the cookie dough and chocolate. The end-result is a Cookie Dough flavor that has a great, smooth texture and high quality mix-ins, but nothing memorable.

Ricotta Lemon Zest

Tasty, balanced lemon flavor. There are also notes of ricotta in the flavor, although the ingredient did not seem to substantially add to the texture of the ice cream. It is unclear whether the ricotta adds much, other than a fancy-sounding ingredient in the title.

Green Tea

Deep, bold matcha Japanese green tea flavor. This scoop delivers a balanced flavor, without any hint of bitterness. The texture is predominantly smooth, but there are pockets of green tea powder throughout each bite that add an unusual texture that may not be for everyone. Like most green tea ice creams, the more complex flavor notes on both the high end and the deep end tend to get muted after several bites.

Espresso with Chocolate Chunk

Good espresso flavor. This flavor is light on chocolate chunk, which is probably for the better, because the chocolate chunks did not seem to integrate well with the cream base.

8
Final Score: 8/10

Lush Gelato

1511 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley, CA 94709