The dense, rich taste of Italian gelato offers a slightly different kind of frozen dessert experience than regular ice cream.
Gelato, the Italian word for "frozen," has a higher proportion of milk and lower proportions of cream and eggs than regular ice cream. Some kinds do not include eggs at all. Although it shares a similar custard base to ice cream, gelato is normally churned at a much slower rate, incorporating less air and becoming denser than ice cream. It has lower fat content at around 4 to 8 percent as well.
With many dessert lovers opting for healthier but also unique frozen desserts to cool down on scorching days, here are three gelato shops that deliver refreshing mouthfuls of joy, with their menus incorporating diverse ingredients.
Meaning "ginger" in Italian, Zenzero opened its first branch in 2017 in a small alley near Gangnam-gu Office Station. Using seasonal local fruits and vegetables, handmade cheese and mostly fair trade ingredients for its gelato, Zenzero offers experimental gelato varieties that cannot be found anywhere else.
From sorbets using Jeju Island carrots grown in Gujwa-eup and a type of Korean apple called Arisoo, its Mascarpone cheese gelato is topped with honey that’s from Ulleung Island. Zenzero's chocolate gelato comes spiced with the herb chopi -- Zanthoxylum piperitum -- harvested from Jiri Mountain.
Zenzero focuses on making small batches of gelato with fresh, local ingredients. Its innovative combinations of ingredients on the menu alone wow visitors.
There's fresh ginseng and yuzu combined with Italian stracciatella cheese, chestnut blended with gorgonzola -- both using milk from grass-fed Jeju cows -- and a riso (rice) gelato that uses organic Chosun Hyangmi rice.
Zenzero also operates a branch near Dosan Park in the Apgujeong area. Both shops open at 9 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. during the summer season. A cup of gelato with two flavors is 7,000 won ($5.50) and takeout or orders through a delivery app like Coupang Eats are available.
Gusttimo is an Italian-style gelato franchise launched in Korea a decade ago that has an exclusive contract with a Italian gelato maker to develop their own recipes using Italian, French and Belgian ingredients, based on the taste and texture of Italian gelato.
Gusttimo -- a portmanteau of the Italian words "gusto," taste, and "ottimo," excellent -- has eight stores across the country including those in Jonggak Tower 8 and Dongbu Ichon-dong. Despite having many locations, they offer the same taste and same 24-36 flavors across their locations, depending on the season.
Another perk of going to Gusttimo for gelato is that compared to some other gelato shops, they offer combinations of flavors, such as green tea and mascarpone cheese, lemon and raspberry, cookie and cream cheese.
A steady-seller is rice, which features chewy grains of rice to be enjoyed along with the creamy and sweet taste of the rice-flavored gelato.
Gusttimo Jonggak Tower 8 opens at 7:30 a.m. every day except Sundays and closes at 9:00 p.m. A single cup of gelato costs 5,300 won.
Opened 20 years ago near Samgakji Station in Yongsan-gu, Cacao Boom began as a small artisanal chocolate and gelato shop. Now a must-visit place among chocolate lovers and gelato enthusiasts, Cacao Boom’s dark chocolate gelato is the most well-known item on the menu.
In its minimal cafe space with a few antique fixtures, Cacao Boom offers a relatively simple menu. There are three kinds of chocolate, milk and two kinds of sorbet: watermelon and lemon. Each cup costs 5,800 won.
The "strong chocolate" gelato is neither too heavy nor too sweet, evidence of chocolatier Go Young-joo’s decades of know-how and experience in finding the perfect combinations of ingredients. The "mild chocolate"-flavored gelato is creamier, but again, it is not too sweet. That could be a good reason for anyone who doesn’t like frozen desserts or chocolate that are too sweet to visit.
Cacao Boom is currently open every day except Mondays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Unfortunately, the shop will close after July 30 to reorganize its business. Its online shop selling chocolates will continue to remain open however.