Laboratorists puts the cool factor back in ice cream
BY LAYLA SCHLACK
BRAIN FREEZE The Chin Chin Laboratorists’ Valrhona chocolate ice cream, lost in a haze of liquid nitrogen
IF ITALY HAS GELATO and the Midwest has frozen custard, the future has “nitro ice cream” from The Chin Chin Laboratorists. Part theater, part delicious, Chin Chin opened last summer in Camden Locks as London’s first establishment of its kind. Husband and wife team Ahrash Akbari-Kalhur and Nyisha Weber cite molecular gastronomy bigwigs Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal as inspirations but say that they wanted to do something a little more accessible. Their creation is priced around $6.50 for a scoop with one sauce and one topping — pretty reasonable for a show and a rich, velvety treat.
Here’s how it works: You step into a futuristic chemistry lab setup where you’re presented with a choice of liquid custards in Madagascar vanilla, Valrhona chocolate and a third flavor that changes every three days. (Past selections have included mango, Moroccan mint tea, and lychee and rosewater.) Once you’ve selected your flavor, Akbari-Kalhur pours a beakerful — they’re not playing around with the lab theme — into a regular old KitchenAid, where a blast of liquid nitrogen is piped in. A cloud of vapor rises as the mixer turns on. Then, voilà, a cup of ice cream emerges.
The fun doesn’t end there. Weber mans the toppings and sauce bar, where a range of similarly gourmet options are on hand. There are usually three sauces available, which will also be poured out of beakers. Sea salt and caramel is a safe bet for just about any situation, but if a fruity syrup is more your taste, go for it. Toppings include lavender sea salt, crystallized pretzels and cardamom, along with more traditional items like chopped nuts and chocolate candies. Everything is made in-house.
The couple run the entire operation themselves, and they say they enjoy explaining how their process creates a denser, smoother ice cream because the quick freezing doesn’t involve much air or allow ice crystals to form, as they do in traditional ice cream. They also offer coffee, hot chocolate and alcoholic beverages for the cooler months, as well as cupcakes. Although they can’t speak definitively to any plans for expansion — they’re just a year into this dairy adventure — they’ve got their sights set on U.S. shores, where they’ll no doubt be welcome. After all, they’ve devised a product that’s both novel and high quality. That ice cream lovers have responded in droves is pretty cool.