Problematic Gelato at Kekou Gelato

Kekou GelatoLocation: 394 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.kekou.ca/

Though ice cream and gelato joints serving Asian-inspired flavours seem to be popping up on an almost weekly basis, I’m pretty sure Kekou is the OG.  It might not be the pioneer in the city, but it was definitely one of the first.

They have a variety of unique flavours like black sesame, Vietnamese coffee, and durian (and they must also be doing other things with durian, because the place kinda reeks of the stuff).

Kekou Gelato

I went with rosewater pistachio, and the flavour was superb.  The balance between the nutty pistachio and the fragrant rosewater was just right; neither flavour overwhelmed the other, and they complimented each other perfectly.

The texture, however, was a bit of an issue.  It wasn’t icy, but it had a thin mouthfeel and a distinct lack of creaminess that was unsatisfying.

Kekou Gelato

The funny thing is, they actually have a sign up in the store explaining that the thin texture is intentional — it is, they claim, a side-effect of the gelato’s lack of stabilizers.

A couple of things about this:

1)

2) Even if this is true — that it’s impossible to make creamy gelato without the use of stabilizers, and that every luxuriously creamy gelato I’ve ever had (both here and in Italy) used some form of chemical magic for its rich texture — then maybe stabilizers are just part of making high quality gelato?

Again, I’m skeptical that this is the case, but I’m sure that making truly great gelato is a skill that takes years to master.  If your gelato-making know-how isn’t advanced enough to make it creamy without using stabilizers, then here’s an idea: use stabilizers.  Is the ability to smugly claim that your gelato is stabilizer-free really worth selling a subpar product?

It’s not a huge deal — and I’ve certainly had worse — but the fact that they’re coming right out and admitting that they’re selling inferior gelato on purpose is a little bit frustrating.

Middling Gelato at Ed’s Real Scoop

Ed's Real ScoopLocation: 189 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.edsrealscoop.com/

I’ve mentioned before that I quite like Ed’s Real Scoop, but that really, their sweet cream is where it’s at.  It’s outstanding.  Their other flavours are disappointingly hit-and-miss.

But in all my dozens of visits to the place over the years, I’ve never bothered to try their gelato.  This is going to be a short post — more of a PSA than anything else — because it’s not very good.  I’d advise that you stick to the ice cream.  Specifically, stick to the sweet cream.

I tried the pistachio and the bacio (chocolate hazelnut), and both of the flavours were pretty weak.  There just wasn’t much there, other than a generic sweetness.  This tends to be an issue with their ice cream, too, but at least in that case they’re starting with a great quality base.

Alas, the gelato itself was thin and underwhelming, with barely any creaminess at all.  It’s a waste of time when the ice cream is right there.

Wacky Flavours at Death in Venice Gelato Co.

Death in Venice Gelato Co.Location: 536 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.deathinvenice.ca/

If you’re looking for an off-kilter scoop of gelato, Death in Venice is the place to go.  With their various flavours featuring ingredients like parsnip, kaffir lime, and lavender, you’d be advised to look elsewhere if you’re hoping for a scoop of plain chocolate or vanilla.

Of course, it’s easy enough to serve oddball flavours as a novelty; it’s not-so-easy to make them actually taste good.

Death in Venice Gelato Co.

I can happily say that Death in Venice absolutely nails the whole “tasting really good” thing.

On this particular visit I tried the pistachio yogurt and baklava, which was outstanding.  It features crispy bits of phyllo pastry, pistachio chunks, and honey, which really nails the baklava flavour.  The yogurt adds a very subtle tartness.  There clearly isn’t enough yogurt here to qualify this as frozen yogurt; there’s just enough to add that flavour without being overly sour.

Death in Venice Gelato Co.

That’s not to mention the lemon zest, which works perfectly with the other elements here.  I think there might have also been ricotta?  I’m not sure.

But you know what I am sure about?  That this was great.  Because it was great.  Aside from the really interesting combination of flavours, the gelato itself was creamy and luxurious.  It’s good stuff.

Decent Macarons from Butter Avenue

Butter AvenueLocation: 477 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.butteravenue.com/

I guess those stupid overpriced macarons from Ladurée in Yorkdale have ruined other ones for me.  Because I just ate a couple from Butter Avenue, and they were pretty good, but I couldn’t help but compare them to Ladurée — and they came up short.

Butter Avenue

I tried the pistachio and the raspberry white chocolate, and there certainly wasn’t anything wrong with either.  The pistachio had a really enjoyable nutty flavour, and the raspberry white chocolate featured a delicious raspberry jam centre surrounded by creamy white chocolate.  They were both quite tasty.

But the flavours just couldn’t compare to what they were serving at Ladurée, and the texture was overly dense and chewy, in stark contrast to the almost ethereal lightness of Ladurée’s version.

Butter Avenue

They were three bucks each, which is certainly less than the almost four that they’re charging at Ladurée, but not exactly cheap.  If you’re already spending three bucks on a tiny macaron, you may as well spend the extra dollar and get the superior version.

(Mostly) Great Gelato at Hollywood Gelato

Hollywood GelatoLocation: 1640 Bayview Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.hollywoodgelato.com/

I’m not sure why, but there are way more gelato shops in the GTA than regular ice cream.  I’m pulling this number right out of my you-know-where, but I’d guess there’s something like four gelato places for every one ice cream shop.

So when you’re talking about the best gelato in the city, there’s quite a bit of competition.  But Hollywood Gelato is certainly a strong contender for that list.

Hollywood Gelato

On a recent visit, I got Rocky Rocher (chocolate hazelnut) and Sicilian Pistachio.  The texture was phenomenal.  It’s slightly stretchy and richly creamy; you’re not going to do much better in the texture department without a plane ticket to Italy.

The flavour, however, wasn’t quite up to snuff on this particular visit.  It was still very good, but the flavour on the Rocky Rocher was a bit muted, and the pistachio was slightly too strong (I think someone was a bit heavy-handed with the pistachio flavouring in this particular batch).  There was also a vaguely unpleasant aftertaste that lingered on my palate for a while after I was done.

Hollywood Gelato

(I think I’m coming off more negative here than I should — don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious.  It just wasn’t quite as delicious as it usually is.)

On another visit, I got a couple of the wackier, Easter-inspired varieties: Creme Egg and Kinder Surprise.  Surprisingly enough, they were a lot better than the more traditional flavours I had on my previous visit.  The Kinder Surprise, in particular, really nailed the milky, chocolatey flavour of that particularly treat.