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May 10, 2009 08:05 PM

Oakland: Lush Gelato - Argentine "helado" ... Wow, seriously, wow

I tried them at the San Rafael Farmers Market on Sunday.

I tried the grapefruit sorbet and the basil gelato. Both were so deeply flavored. With both my eyes opened wide they were so great. These are perhaps the best gelato I've ever tried. So appropriately named ... lush indeed.

I asked if they sold elsewhere and they mentioned they opened a shop on Piedmont about a month ago near the theatre.

I asked for a business card and it seems they also go by another name, Gelato Buenos Aires. The Lush website just has a home page. However, there's a bit more info on their other website

Lush Gelato
4184 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

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  1. Thanks RW! Were these the same folks who used to have "Tango Gelato" on Fruitvale? Also an argentine gelato place that moved into a cursed location that once was a Baskin-Robbins. Love the name!!! adam

    1 Reply
    1. re: adamshoe

      Don't know. Guess that gives me an excuse to go down there for further research.

    2. It's the same location that used to be Tango Gelato, and for a while with Gelato/Lulu Rae. Don't know if there's a relationship, but sounds like there might be, with the Argentine connection.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Was the helado scooped with a scooper, or spread with a spatula?

        1. re: lmnopm


          It has nothing to do with Tango Gelato.

          I was in the area today and stopped by the shop to try a few more flavors. What i like about these is that they are boldly flavored. I'm just not a fan of the dainty flavoring in ICI.

          A few other flavors were milk chocolate, dulce de leche, vanilla, cardemom, cinnamon, brown sugar, bourbon pecan, mint chocolate chip, almond and a few others. There are pre-packaged containers in a freezer with a few more flavors such as blood orange and nutmeg.

          I liked the bourbon pecan, but you really must like very boozy ice cream. The cardmom was lovely. Much, much better than Three Twins cardemom. The cinnamon was good too.The mint chocolate chip was nice. Strong mint flavor and the chocolate shaving were perfect ... not too thin and not too thick so you have to deal with them after the gelato is swallowed. I am blanking on the brown sugar, because the woman in the shop said it had a frozen cookie dough taste. That distracted me, and I guess it did.

          Someone asked about strawberry and he said that they might have it next week. The woman was going on and on about how great the strawberry was.

          I noticed there was only a very little basil left. I mentioned that I tried it at the San Rafael farmers market. The woman in the shop said someone just blogged about the basil and they had a run on it today.

          "Really?" I asked. "What blog?"

          "I don't know" she said. "It must be a famous blogger because of the response".

          I walked out silently chuckling to myself. Nah, no one famous. People just recognize a good thing when they hear about it ... and try it. Chowhound can be a loud microphone

          1. re: rworange

            I asked about spatula v. scooper because most Argentine helado is served at a texture where it is spread out on the cone. While I don't live there, I do own a place in Argentina, and when I first saw this post, I was ready to make an "I don't have time for it" special trip. Now it will be a "when I'm in the neighborhood" stop. There is a lot of great local ice cream these days - in fact, I loved the mint at Sketch this afternoon. However, I've never had anything in the US that compares, in taste and texture, to the ice cream in Argentina. It is a different product altogether.

            1. re: lmnopm

              lmnopm, would you drop me an email at the address in my profile? Thanks!

            2. re: rworange

              RWOrange, I bet it was your posting that got people there! I ride by it on the bus on my way home from the gym and keep saying I have to jump off and try it!

        2. This place is really great. Went yesterday and was the only customer there. . .small trickle of people went in and out as I sat on the little bench outside.
          I tasted almost all of the gelatos. . .there are 12 flavors offered - all of them were incredibly good. . .my only quibble was I wished they had strawberry so I could have a scoop of that and a scoop of basil. .that would have been heaven. The bourbon butter pecan is very boozy but the texture is spot on . .. hard to do when combining booze in ice cream - it was very nicely balanced with a pronounced buttery flavor. The lemon sorbetto was amazing. . tart and sweet - so smooth and almost creamy. I ended up getting a two scoop with milk chocolate and cafe con dulce de leche. The milk chocolate has a depth of flavor that is amazing. It's very, very close to the flavor of my beloved Sticky, Chewy chocolate from Swensen's - it's incredibly creamy and rich. The cafe con dulce de leche . .. well, it's my new favorite. Nice coffee flavor that does not overwhelm the deep caramel flavor of the cream . .there is also a swirl of dulce de leche in the ice cream that is stunningly delicious.

          The texture is tighter than regular gelato. . . as stated, they use an ice cream scoop but the gelato is lush(!), smooth, and creamy - the scooper just glides through the gelato.

          This will most likely end my weekly pilgrimage to Humphry Slocombe - I love them but this is almost walking distance from my house. .. this is the gelato of my dreams. I cannot for the life of me understand why Fenton's was mobbed to the rafters while Lush was nearly empty. As I walked by Fenton's I tipped my ice cream cup at the suckers waiting in line for sub-par ice cream and kind of giggled to myself. But then again, I hope people discover Lush so it can prosper. . it deserves to . . it is very, very good gelato.

          5 Replies
          1. re: pastryqueen

            The problem is they are sort of hidden. It is not easy to see them from Piedmont.

            Hope you post when they have strawberry. Now you got me going about having a strawberry/basil gelato. They were supposed to have it this week, but I guess the strawberries weren't where they should be.

            Don't forget there are some pre-packed containers with different flavors like blood orange.

            I give Humphry Slocombe's secret breakfast the edge over the bourbon pecan, however, every other flavor has been the equal. Also, I've had some misses at HS, and so far none with Lush. Though, they really can't be compared as equals since other than the gelato vs ice cream thing, there's a different approach to flavors. HS flavors are more subdued while Lush goes for bold flavor and isn't as edgy with flavors like fois gras.

            1. re: rworange

              I absolutely agree. . HS & Lush are different animals but I guess my point was that I was driving to San Francisco to get my ice cream fix as opposed to hitting Ici (of which I am not a huge fan),Tara's, Almare or Sketch .. it's just nice to have something of such great quality so close by. Altho, if HS twitters that they have the Milk Chocolate/Passion Fruit in stock, I am speeding across the bay bridge!!! :) Otherwise, I am staying local and getting some really gorgeous gelato.

              I will do my best to support them and get the word out that this little place is absolutely worth finding!

              1. re: pastryqueen

                I made the "special trip" (not that it is that far) just a short time ago. After my empanada chilena and my alfajor argentino for lunch, I decided to go and try this stuff. It is very good. I sampled only 2 flavors - the dulce de leche con caffe and the chocolate chip. I asked if they make a dulce de leche granizado and they do. This is my favorite flavor, ever. The texture isn't exactly what I'm accustomed to in Argentina, but it is fairly close, and it is a quite good product. I liked it a bit more than Tara's, and it is a different product than Sketch makes. I will be back, sooner rather than later.

                1. re: lmnopm

                  Didn't realize how popular ice cream was in Argentina ... and dulce de leche

                  The dulce de leche granizado sounds linke a great idea ... adding chocolate flakes. Someone wrote on the web that Argentine helado has more intense flavor which is what caught my attention here. I hope they do more flavors that might have an Argentine influence.

                  Maybe the milk makes a difference in texture?

                  1. re: rworange

                    Gelato is crazy in Argentina. It's called helado and is thicker than gelato but still have some of the elasticity. They also have amazing flavors, I especially like the Italian-influenced flavors with alcohol in them.

          2. I headed here today to soothe my mouth after the dentist, and it was the right choice. I tasted the dark chocolate (good and very dark) the dulce de leche (delicious), and the bourbon pecan, and ultimately got a scoop of the bourbon pecan. The perfect texture, great flavor, and for $2.50 a scoop, a nicely priced treat. I wished there were more flavors, there were only about 8 options when I was there (also a french vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom and two others that I can't remember). I would have definitely wanted one of the fruity flavors, and I really hope there's a peach later this summer.

            5 Replies
            1. re: JasmineG

              I'm with you on more fruit flavors, and was bummed that this evening's selection featured neither lemon nor the elusive basil; however, I really enjoyed what we did get a chance to try. Amongst our group, we tried/bought: cinnamon, milk chocolate, madagascar vanilla, mint chocolate chip (flavorful, almost...peppery!), and cafe con dulce de leche. The fruit flavors available were strawberry and canteloupe - I tried a taste of the strawberry, but prefer Sketch's version or even Scream at the Sun. Temescal market. That being said, I'm looking forward to seeing what the summer bounty will yield, and will definitely be back when I'm in the neighborhood.

              1. re: e_tsai

                To clarify, the strawberry and cantaloupe tonight were sorbetto, not gelato.

                1. re: lexdevil

                  Thanks for the clarification, lexdevil. The Sketch and Scream versions I referred to are also sorbets.

                  Sketch Ice Cream
                  1809 4th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                  1. re: e_tsai

                    I love Sketch sorbets as well.

                    Just wanted to clarify due to the eagerness for fruit flavors above. Didn't want everyone to rush over in search of the elusive strawberry gelato.

                    1. re: lexdevil

                      Good point, and a good question for these new folks - whether or not they'll be offering one! It'll give me an excuse to plan another visit.

                      It looks like Tango Gelato, the business that used to be there, offered a "Strawberry Cream" gelato. Their website still lists the old flavors and the since-replaced Oakland location:

            2. Much better than the business it replaced. Cardamom is a shining example of this flavor. Very bright cardamom flavor on top of the creamy base. The texture is very good out of the case, and even the pints I bought stayed a decent texture in my own freezer. I would almost think they were full of stabilizers but there's no hint of gums or anything else in the product. A scoop of the basil (milk based) along with the strawberry sorbetto made for a great flavor combination.