Toronto has no shortage of gelaterias or self-serve fro-yo chains, but month-old Kekou Gelato House (13 Baldwin St., at McCaul) does things a little different. The Baldwin Village spot is making gelato and sorbet with east-Asian flavours like lychee, red-bean white chocolate, Vietnamese coffee, jasmine tea, and even durian.
Owners Yik Sin and Elissa Pham learned how to make gelato while travelling in Italy and came back wondering what would happen if Asian fruits and flavours (he’s Chinese and she’s Vietnamese) were included. “We got a lot of the ideas from Asian-style desserts, like Vietnamese coffee and green-bean/coconut drinks,” says Sin, who makes the gelato and sorbetto in the back kitchen. “When we were thinking about opening the shop, a lot of our friends told us to make durian. When you’re in Chinatown, you have a lot of access to these exotic fruits.”
First-timers tend to be drawn to the Vietnamese coffee, which is creamier, milkier, and sweeter than typical espresso gelato. The aromatic jasmine tea is also a must-try with its flowery top notes and a bittersweet finish that evokes images of lily ponds and gardens blooming with chrysanthemums (the latter is also a flavour on the menu). Yik’s favourite flavour, the soursop sorbet, is puckery and tart like a lemon-pineapple mix, a stark contrast to the ultra-smooth avocado-banana combo that packs a wallop of banana flavour.
Durian, the spiky fruit from southeast Asian that’s so pungent Singapore banned it on its trains, translates well since the fruit already has a melty and creamy texture. In gelato form, the durian’s salty and almost fermented, cooked-onion flavour is intact, for better or worse.
A small cup ($3.75) can hold up to two flavours and a medium cup ($4.25) can hold three. There are also large cups ($4.75) and takeaway containers. Other flavours in the works include ube and green-tea pistachio.
Goes great with: More gelato! And if you’re not sure you can handle a whole cup of durian, pair it with jasmine tea—its strong, flowery fragrance helps mask durian breath like a spray of Febreze.—Karon Liu