The Scoop: Lush Gelato, No Bath Bombs Here
While the word “lush” most often conjures up images of a night out with a lightweight pharm student, a new gelato joint on Polk Street has given the word new meaning. Lush Gelato is an East Bay favorite that has expanded to a small new shop in Nob Hill. Owner and gelato master Federico Murtaugh has amassed a following at his Oakland and Berkeley stores, and it was only a matter of time before his inventive flavors would make their way across the Bay.
Murtaugh is not your typical gelato master, hailing from Argentina instead of the classically associated Italy. However, Argentina has one of the world’s largest Italian populations outside of Italy, and Murtaugh grew up no stranger to gelato. Everything at his shop is made from scratch, starting with a base of egg white, Straus cream and sugar. In case you had any doubts, you can watch through a window behind the counter as your dessert emerges in creamy waterfalls from the gelato maker. All of the gelato is made in-house and from locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.
When the Scoop team visited Lush early this November, the flavor options ran the gamut from creative concoctions like Ricotta & Lemon Zest and Popcorn Truffle, to more standard fare such as Malted Milk & Salted Chocolate Chunks and Tahitian Vanilla Bean. Lucky for us, there was no line-out-the-door crowd—although in a month or so we’re sure we’ll be eating our words—so the lone scooper behind the counter indulged our sampling curiosities. I was fearful that the Popcorn Truffle would awaken nauseating nightmares of the similarly named Jelly Belly flavor, but luckily that was far from the case; Lush’s popcorn gelato had a buttery sweetness that was neither overpowering nor diminutive, with just a hint of salt. The Crème Fraîche & Black Pepper Chocolate Chunk struck a fine balance between sweet and spice, adding a bit of savory appeal to the rich indulgence. Unfortunately I found this flavor to be a bit hard and icy, not as smooth and creamy as its neighbors.
I was torn between the Straus Yogurt & Orange Zest and the Ricotta & Lemon Zest, both of which had a tangy sweetness with a citrus twist. I ultimately decided upon the Ricotta & Lemon Zest because its rich, creamy texture was absolutely everything. Placed atop a fresh-made cone—I witnessed its creation—the choice couldn’t have been more pleasing. The cone wasn’t one of those enormous waffle cones that overtakes the ice cream, but instead provided a light, crispy texture to complement the smoothness of the gelato.
Dawn opted for two scoops in a cup: The Fresh Mint & Chocolate Chunks and the Malted Milk & Salted Chocolate Chunks. The former was an all-around crowd pleaser, with mint so fresh it could have been straight from the garden—none of that fake, toothpaste-flavored green stuff here. And the latter, no one could argue with: a rich, smooth, creamy chocolate with just enough salt to bring out the sweetness of the cacao.
On the dairy-free front, I was very hopeful that the Chocolate Orange Sorbetto would be as delightful as the other citrus-spiked options, but this one missed the mark. I’m usually a fan of a good orange–chocolate combo; something went wrong here, and though I can’t put my finger on what it was, I can say that I wasn’t about to get an entire scoop of it. The Strawberry Sorbetto was good by San Francisco standards (i.e. better than your average pint, but typical of strawberry sorbets).
The price was—insert sigh—also in line with San Francisco standards. At $3.20 for one scoop and an additional dollar for each scoop added, Lush is not the cheapest treat. Luckily, having your gelato in a cone is only $0.75 extra, which might be considered a real deal! They also keep late hours, which is perfect for the Polk Street weekend crowd. Enjoy your treat at one of the two tables in the small storefront, or take it on a walk down Polk Street for a great way to spend a fall afternoon in The City.
1817 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109