N2 Extreme Gelato | Heston Style
This post is really more obligatory than anything: I’m pretty sure that almost everyone has tried N2 by now, or you would have watched that episode of Masterchef where they made ice cream/gelato out of pretty much anything with a mixer + dry ice. Still, some people haven’t visited yet, so here’s my (very, very late) take on the Heston-inspired, ever-changing gelato of N2!
Date Last Visited: 23/8/13
Address: Chinatown 43/1 Dixon St Sydney, NSW 2000
Recommended Dish(es): deconstructed chocolate lava | butternut popcorn
The first thing I want to point out is that if you visit N2 during a peak time (pretty much any weeknight, especially Friday/Saturday), you can expect a crowd as large as the ones outside Gelato Messina. Yes, it’s on that level.
I’m not a latecomer to N2 per se – I’m just late with this blog post on it. My first visit was in 2012, shortly after they first opened. The premise is simple yet exotic at the same time – use liquid nitrogen to flash freeze gelato mixtures instead of employing traditional methods.
So what’s the big deal, apart from the cool factor? Does it taste the same? You know the answer to that is already going to be a no. When using flash freezing techniques (dry ice also counts – it’s not just liquid nitrogen – anything cold really), the ice cream/gelato/whatever mixture you’re using will form a very creamy and smooth texture which is extremely difficult, if not impossible to replicate with traditional methods. That said, this isn’t a clear cut path to superiority, as some people would rather prefer a more textured gelato than the super soft and almost texture-less creations of N2.
Indeed, it was because of this that I didn’t actually take a fancy to N2 at the beginning. There are just too many flavours for which the texture has become entrenched in the norms of traditional ice creams.
In short: N2′s methods mean that some flavours flop (and terribly at times), while a select few are absolutely amazing.
But, I’m not actually going to talk too much about the individual flavours – I’ve tried over 10 at N2 and I honestly can’t recall all of them throughout my various visits. That said, I can give an overall recommendation – flavours which seem (in their name) to be stronger e.g. chocolate, rather than weaker e.g. rose water will taste better. Reasoning is pretty simple – without that added element of texture, the flavour itself has to do most of the talking, so richer flavours with greater depth will speak very loudly. This doesn’t mean N2′s texture is bad – on the contrary, it’s a fantastic springboard and nothing else tastes quite like it. In this day and age of gastronomic experimentation, different will always attract a following.
As usual, your mileage may vary.
Oh, another reason why individual flavours aren’t the focus – their menu changes every week. Talk about the progress of innovation? Indeed, this is both a great and terrible thing for N2 – great in that you’ll always get something new, and occasionally stumble on a gem, bad in that you absolutely cannot expect consistency.
You give some, you take some away…
What finally inspired me to do this post was the recent discovery of a new flavour, presented in all its glory below:
Quite possibly the best flavour to come out of N2 since their butternut popcorn, the deconstructed chocolate lava is a flavour the N2 team must put on their permanent menu. It’s not just the super hip delivery method with the syringe, but one of the few flavours for which the texture very much works in N2′s favour. It’s like a super smooth chocolate ganache with a surprisingly deep flavour. Almost like I’m eating a chocolate ice cream cake that’s of the perfect softness. Absolutely awesome.
On top of that is the chocolate inside the syringe – this is essentially a ganache-like chocolate sauce, partially hardened. It’s got a dark chocolate taste to it, giving the “cake” below an extra kick. Literally the icing on the cake!
The gelato on the right will remain a favourite for people who aren’t as into chocolate gelato. I think the popcorn gelato is N2′s original creation, and probably remains their best. The buttery sweetness of the gelato fits into the theme of its ultra-soft texture perfectly, it’s no wonder why it works so well. As for the macha latte on the left, it’s basically like thickened cream – an exmaple where things didn’t go so well.
Dear reader, have you realised? N2′s churning of flavours is pretty much like a science lab always making new inventions?
It just fits the image so well.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
Awesome: variety of flavours boggles the mind, unique texture, some flavours are amazing
Not so Awesome: no two visits are the same