17 Feb Dex2rose, Melbourne CBD
Dex2rose is a new nitrogen gelato place hidden in Racing Club Lane, found between Hardware and Warburton Lane. Originally from a marketing and advertising background, Jesse was inspired to start up his gelato business after spending some time living in the country and yearning for a nice hangout spot other than the local pub.
Jesse and his business partner Wei Ming have certainly created quite the hang out spot at Dex2rose. Their somewhat unconventional location in an obscure lane was chosen for a number of reasons, one of which was to avoid all the foot traffic that accompanies main streets and bigger lanes (as well as people ogling at the spectacle of nitrogen fog cascading from Kitchenaids), which can detract from the relaxed vibe they were going for. The name Dex2rose is a play on the sugar dextrose, an important ingredient used in gelato, with ‘2’ referring to the 2 in the chemical formula for nitrogen gas (N₂).
After gaining his gelato know-how from the Carpigiani Gelato University, of which Messina’s Nick Palumbo is the official Australia/New Zealand ambassador, Jesse pursued his longtime dream of starting up a nitrogen gelateria despite the initial disappointment of discovering it wouldn’t be the first to be established in Melbourne.
Learning some of the science behind gelato-making was intriguing. The balance of sugar must be just right – too much sugar and it becomes gritty; too little and it becomes icy. Compared to regular gelato, nitrogen gelato contains less sugar because of its slightly warmer colder serving temperature, enhancing our taste bud’s ability to detect the sugar. Furthermore, a combination of smaller ice crystals from the quick-freeze and less churning (and therefore less air incorporated into the mix) results in a denser and smoother gelato.
Jesse puts a lot of thought into the flavour mash-ups he creates, getting his inspiration from tastes and aromas from markets, international grocery stores and restaurants, as well as suggestions from customers. The resulting concoctions are available for two or three weeks before making way for another round of fresh ideas. Lots of experimentation was involved in perfecting the flavours and textures of the gelati and accompanying toppings. Most of the elements used are made in house and colours and flavors are all natural. Another interesting aspect to Dex2rose’s menu is its varied price points for the gelati. Jesse explained that the prices reflect the cost and quality of ingredients used in each combination. The flexible pricing allows them to pass on cost savings directly to the customers, and also permits a much greater freedom of ingredients used without compromising on margins.
Now, onto the main event!
I tried some cold-brewed coffee to start. Coffee gets its much of aroma from heat, which is therefore diluted by the addition of ice, as in regular iced coffee. The slower process of producing cold brew coffee results in a smoother, cleaner flavour that is less bitter but somehow more intense. Although it’s recommended to be enjoyed straight out of the bottle, Dex2rose doesn’t force coffee philosophies on anyone – milk and sugar syrup can be added to the customer’s delight.
The menu is full of witty names; I started off with the After Ate. The gelato did indeed have a delightfully smooth and dense texture. The peppermint wasn’t particularly strong, which I personally liked, and there were crunchy bits of brownie mixed through. Both of these additions allowed it to avoid chocolate monotony.
The Lazy Dinner was a combination of sage, burnt butter and caramel, topped with a sticky caramel sauce – a rich and somewhat guilty pleasure.
The Honey Stash, consisting of pistachio and honey, honeyed nut clusters, and raspberry cream was probably my favourite, though I’m biased because of my love of nuts – and especially pistachios. Jesse sampled eight types of pistachio paste of different pistachio varieties and different grades before settling on one made in Italy. It had a full flavour, unlike many versions that seem to have a washed out and sometimes even chemical-like pistachio flavour. Tartness from raspberry cream cut through the sweet, allowing me to enjoy it for longer without being overwhelmed with the often cloying taste of honey.
The Rockkaido is made with rockmelon and both Hokkaido milk tea powder and brewed tea, then sprayed with raspberry cream to deliver a summery punch.
In another interesting twist on coffee, the nitro brew is cold-brewed coffee charged with nitrogen then dispensed from a beer tap, and as such, arrives with a layer of foam. Flavours are infused into the brew, and today’s involved a blend of vanilla, maple and rum to give an interesting, rounded quality to the coffee.
Another of my favourites was It’s a Match AH!, created with matcha tea powder and sprinkled with crunchy peanut and sugar powder. Like the pistachio, there was a strong flavor of matcha here – definitely not for people with a dislike for matcha. I enjoyed the bitterness (apparently its bitterness has already been toned down after feedback) but the sugar peanut powder also helped mellow the flavor out slightly.
Compared to other methods, cold pressed juice preserves enzymes in fruit that is usually destroyed by heat, which also helps retain some of the healthy nutrients. Lack of blending in the cold-press process also means there is less pulp, giving them more bang for their fruit-buying buck. Fruit used is seasonal and I sampled a refreshing mixture of apple, grapes and watermelon that was pleasantly (and unsurprisingly) pulp free.
The final sampling in this feast was the Pink Flamingo sorbet. The flavour was more complex than expected – a result of Jesse’s careful selection of peach varieties. The blood peach afforded an unusual (but good) peachy taste and also a lingering, fruity aftertaste, in contrast to a lot of other sorbets whose flavors melt away as quickly as the sorbet does.
Jesse’s dedication to his vision has paid off; he and Wei Ming have created a unique meeting place with many enticing items on offer. He is slowly building up a repertoire, and because of the constant rotations there will always be something new to try and a variety sure to suit most. Do yourself a favour. Go hunting through the laneways for this gem, pull up a chair (or a crate) and delve into a world of original and fascinating flavours.
Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at Dex2Rose as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.