Thursday, June 01, 2017

Aqua S, Sydney

Update Review, December 2016 Visits


Last year, I went to Aqua S for the first time, and learned why Aqua S had so much hype.  Yes, their brilliant blue soft serve, and ridiculous toppings ARE instagram sensations, but, also, the soft serve ice cream is really, really good.

I couldn't wait to return during my visit to Sydney this year.
Popup Setup.
Amazingly, my first weekend in Sydney, I ran into Aqua S, unintentionally, not at their own store.  They were at the Gap store, at the Westfield mall, doing a special popup event.

They had two soft serve machines set up on the counter.  I have no idea if these are the same grade as what they use at the shop, but it was a pretty impressive mobile setup.
Made to order!
At the popup, they had only one flavor, the signature sea salt soft serve, and two toppings (colorful popping candy and torched marshmallows, which, they torched to order).

I got it all.
Small Sea Salt ($4) + Popping Candy + Torched Marshmallow ($2.80) = $6.80
The sea salt had a good flavor, slightly salty, sweet.  But it wasn't nearly as creamy as I remembered, a bit icy even.  I wonder if this was just because of the popup machines?

The popping candy was again fun, more fun than sprinkles, and served about the same purpose.

The toasted marshmallow I had not had before, even though people Instagram it all the time.  It was ... well, a toasted large round marshmallow.  It was good, but, I couldn't help but wonder why I was supposed to want it with my ice cream.  It was served on a white chocolate cookie stick (Pocky?).

Overall, I enjoyed my ice cream, but it wasn't the sort of thing I'd go rushing back for.
Matcha Latte (bottom) + Rose (top) ($4) with Popping Candy ($1.50).
Aqua S rotates their flavors every two weeks now.  On this visit, the flavors were matcha latte and rose, in addition to the menu constant sea salt.  So options were: matcha latte, rose, or sea salt, all on their own, or matcha + sea salt swirl, rose + sea salt swirl.  I was immediately torn by indecision.

I knew I liked the rose before when Ojan got it, so that alone, or swirled with sea salt, was certainly a contender.  But I love matcha.  But I was also worried the matcha would be too strong on its own, and wanted to swirl it with sea salt.  So I wasn't actually indecisive.  I knew what I wanted: matcha swirl with sea salt on the bottom, rose on top.  Which is what I ordered, only to be rejected.  "Sorry, only two flavors" she said.

I understand the two flavors policy ... in that I couldn't get say, matcha, rose, and sea salt as three separate layers.  But the swirl comes out of a single machine, just like a single flavor.  I could get matcha without the sea salt on the bottom and rose on top, no problem.  How was it actually different to get the swirl than a single flavor?  I asked again, saying, "but the swirl is just one lever anyway" or something like that.  Still a hard no.

I asked if the matcha was very strong, and she said yes.  She said it was very bitter and was best swirled with sea salt.  But I couldn't get that, and rose.  Sigh.  She also wouldn't let me sample either flavor.  They do not allow any samples.

In the end, I opted for the matcha and rose, not swirled since they can't swirl.

The rose was lovely.  Such a subtle, beautiful flavor.  It was a bit intense on its own, and might have been a bit better swirled with sea salt, but it was still fabulous.  And, as with my first visit, it was just incredibly creamy and melted perfectly.  I loved it.

The popping candy was again a fun topping.  Like sprinkles, but, actually fun.  I really, really enjoyed my ice cream.

And then I reached the matcha layer.  To say it was bitter is an understatement.  It was *crazy* bitter.  Now, I love matcha, and this was a great matcha flavor.  But ... it was just not at all sweet, and not what I wanted, particularly not after the sweet rose flavor.  Really, this needed to be swirled.  As I had wanted.

I kept trying to like it, but couldn't.  I ended up throwing away the bottom of my cone, as I just couldn't bring myself eat it.

Just like that matcha, I was bitter.  I knew it would be better swirled, and I still really don't understand why it wasn't allowed.  Grumble.  Policies.  But I'll still go back.

Original Review, 2015 Visits

Aqua S is an ice cream shop in Sydney, named for their signature flavor: Sea Salt, which is ... aqua blue.  Yes, the sea salt ice cream is blue.  This might set the scene a bit for what is to follow.

Aqua S opened during my last visit to Sydney, and was a serious rage at the time.  Lines out the door and down the hall.  So much hype.  So much Instagramming.  Why?  Well, they created a product that was extremely novel and photogenic, and thus, social media went crazy.  Baby blue soft serve, in black cones, surrounded by a cloud of cotton candy, garnished with caramel corn.  Yes, seriously.  I walked by a few times (including when I got matcha ice cream across the hall at Chanoma), and I was tempted to swing through myself, but, figured it was all hype.  Something that over the top can't be good, right?

On my recent visit in February, the hype had worn down, but, reviews were still very positive.  People comment constantly on how creamy the ice cream is.  I grew up in the land of soft serve ice cream, so, I'm always on the lookout for good soft serve (NOT froyo, ice cream!).  So, ridiculous toppings and colors aside, it went on my list of possible places to try.

A few days into my trip I looked up Aqua S's weekly special flavors, and it was a done deal: taro and rose.  I adore taro.   I had to visit, no question.  I dragged Ojan with me.

Somehow, even on a 95 degree Sunday, at 2:30pm, there was hardly any line.  The ice cream was great, and I'll certainly be returning.
Aqua S Interior.
The small shop is decorated in ... aqua.  Aqua, aqua, everywhere.  There are a few tiny tables, but even on a non-busy day, they were all full (except the one pictured here, which was filled moments later).  Most patrons take their ice cream and wander through Regent Place, where it is located, and show off their ice cream for basically everyone else walking by to gawk at.

And gawk they do.  For good reason.
Popcorn Machine, Fairy Floss Machine (cotton candy).
The menu at Aqua S is not extensive.  Only 3 flavors of ice cream, one of which is always the signature Sea Salt, and two other flavors change every two weeks.  You can swirl either of the weekly flavors with sea salt, but not each other.  Cup or cone.  One size.  And then, 4 toppings to pick from ($1.50 extra).

Topping choices are ... interesting.  No sprinkles, no chocolate dip.  Instead, they have fairy floss (cotton candy), sweet popcorn, popping candy, and ... grilled marshmallow.  Yeah.  If you opt for the fairy floss, it forms a halo around the cone.  It looks ridiculous, and I don't think makes any sense.  How would you possibly eat that?

Anyway, right behind the counter is a fairy floss machine, making it to order, and a popcorn machine filled with the sweet popcorn.
Grilled Marshmallow and Popping Candy Station.
At the counter in front is the popping candy and grilled marshmallow station.  The marshmallows are on sticks, and then just stuck into your ice cream, which also doesn't really make sense to me.
Taro, with Sweet Popcorn, and (Free!) Valentine's Day Pearl Balls.  $5.50.
I obviously went for the taro.  I added the sweet popcorn because I love caramel corn, and, the bonus free topping of silver balls, which are not normally available.  This was a special for Valentine's Day.

I kinda laughed when I got my cone though.  It looked good, but ... uh, how do you eat popcorn off a cone?  I picked off a kernel, and then realized the bigger problem.  My cone was melting fast, and I had no ability to lick around it to save it.  Within moments I was going to have ice cream dripping down my arm.  Uh-oh.

So, I set about eating the caramel corn first, picking it off as fast as possible.  But ... it wasn't actually good.  It tasted stale.  I didn't actually want it.  So, I just picked it off and ditched it.  Then I could lick around my cone, save it from melting, and enjoy it.  Phew.  A stressful moment was had though, I assure you.

Ok, so, sweet caramel corn?  Not recommended as an ice cream topping.  The pearl balls were fine.

As for the ice cream, I didn't actually taste a ton of taro.  But it was the creamiest, smoothest, soft serve I've probably ever had.  It was really just absolute perfect consistency.  Not icy, not over churned.  Just, perfect.  And it melted beautifully, albeit rapidly, in the 95 degree heat.

The cone was black, but tasted the same as any other sugar cone.  I was hoping it was chocolate.

So, overall, well, it was damn good soft serve.  I'd get it again, but obviously leave off the popcorn.  $5.50 for a cone though ... a bit steep (but it was only $4 without the topping).
Rose and Sea Salt Swirl, with Popping Candy, and (Free!) Valentine's Day Pearl Balls. $5.50.
Ojan opted for the signature sea salt and rose, swirled, with popping candy.  His was beautiful, the aqua blue sea salt and the pretty pink rose were both stunning, it was covered in colorful candy, and had some bling from the pearls.

The sea salt really didn't taste like much to me, it was sweet, but honestly, I didn't taste any salt.  The rose however was really quite good, which shocked me, as rose is not really a flavor I normally go for.  But it was sweet, subtle, and really, really quite good.

While many of the toppings at Aqua S are totally impractical, it turns out, popping candy really is quite fun, and just as easy to deal with on a cone as sprinkles.  However, $1.50 for a little sprinkle of popping candy seemed ... excessive.

His was also a perfect consistency, really quite good ice cream, and I'd gladly get the rose again, although I wish I could swirl it with taro.
Aqua S Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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