8 Brave Competitors Battle for That's Shanghai's Ice Cream Cup

By Cristina Ng, August 17, 2018

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Do you miss the excitement of World Cup madness? To fill the void, we put together a little contest of  our own. We figured, what could be more fun than sampling ice cream and gelato tournament-style in honor of Shanghai’s scorching hot summer? After reaching out to brands around town, eight were brave enough to answer the call and send in three of their best flavors for judgment.

The matchups as decided by the readers' vote pits the number one seed against number eight, four against five, three against six and two against seven with the winners progressing onwards.

The Contenders

That’s Shanghai conducted a reader’s poll via our website and a WeChat poll to determine the seeds for the brackets matchups.

Charlie's Burger

Image courtesy of Charlie's Burgers

These burger experts have been churning their own frozen custard since last fall. They pride themselves on using only ingredients that you can pronounce, sans stabilizers, and including two egg yolks in each serving.

Flavors Submitted: chocolate, peanut, strawberry
Reader Votes: 698


Image by Aimee Burlamacchi/That's 

Bonus is the popular gelato place that appears on Wulumuqi Zhong Lu every summer in place of the hairy crab shop known for their unique flavors and long lines. Fans will be happy to know that they now have a Ruijin Er Lu shop as well. 

Flavors Submitted: black chocolate, Chinese walnut, Earl Grey tea
Reader Votes: 566

De Medici

Image via De Medici

This authentic gelato shop is the new kid on the block with a prime location on the Bund. Honoring a long line of classic gelato makers dating back to the Medici court, this is the perfect place to grab a scoop (or more) before strolling along the promenade.

Flavors Submitted: chocolate, tiramisu, mango
Reader Votes: 560

Buco Gelato

Image courtesy of Popolo Group

Open since last year, this window attached to Gemma continues to show off gelato innovation with Sicilian Chef Salvatore Naselli’s new summer flavors making this ‘hole in the wall’ a worthwhile stop.

Flavors Submitted: coffee, pistachio, pepper bergamot
Reader Votes: 324

Pick Pick. Gelato

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

A new entrant to the scene by a team of gelato lovers so dedicated that they travelled to Italy visiting small shops for inspiration. With a mix of classic and playful flavors, they are already quite popular.

Flavors Submitted: hazelnut cream, rum cranberry, pistachio
Reader Votes: 188


Image by Aimee Burlamacchi/That's 

While primarily known as an elegant Italian eatery with excellent food and a killer soufflé, Pistacchio makes their own gelato. It is designed by Chef Jose de Castro (formerly of Alain Ducasse Group).

Flavors Submitted: tiramisu, banana, pistachio
Reader Votes: 80

Pantry's Best

Image courtesy of Pantry's Best

You probably know about their excellent pies, cupcakes and birthday cakes, but they also have a six-variety gelato gift box available online for RMB180.

Flavors Submitted: rice wine, mango, chocolate
Reader Votes: 811

Flying Flamingo

Image courtesy of Flying Flamingo

If you eat at Mr. Willis, La Strada, Henkes or Bang on a regular basis then you have probably tried Flying Flamingo ice cream. You will recognize it by the vibrant colors and flavors based on fresh fruit, roasted nuts and fresh cream.

Flavors Submitted: coconut, blueberry, salted caramel
Reader Votes: 64

The Judges

This was a blind tasting and all brand names have been edited in for clarity.

Norman Wang, Co-Founder, MAPO.TV

Perhaps most famous for inventing the egg yolk omelet, Norman enjoys the occasional frozen treat with his daughter.

Image courtesy of MAPO.TV

Mandy Tie, Senior Editor, Urban Family

An avid explorer who doesn’t mind spending most of her salary on a good Old-Fashioned (or food) with a penchant for boozy desserts.

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Brian Tan, Chef and F&B Consultant

The man at the table with the most dessert knowledge. 

Image courtesy of Brian Tan

Cain Wang, Co-Founder, MAPO.TV

Foodie, gamer, talent agent and TV producer with a self-described Shanghainese palate.

Image courtesy of MAPO.TV

Molly Jett, Editorial Intern, That's Shanghai

This Bellarmine University broadcast journalism student loves her summertime ice cream. 

Image courtesy of Molly Jett

Ice Cream Cup Bracket

Round 1

1. Pantry's Best vs. Flying Flamingo

PB-v-FF.jpgImages courtesy of Pantry's Best (L) and Flying Flamingo (R)

The first contest’s winner comes out ahead due to a majority preference for Flying Flamingo’s salted caramel flavor. While a small faction argued for Pantry’s Best unique rice wine flavor Norm claims, “I would almost eliminate this one on the jiu niang alone as it’s too cute of a flavor that nobody asked for.”

Judge’s Vote: 2-3
Winner: Flying Flamingo

2. De Medici vs. Buco Gelato

Images courtesy of De Medici (L) and Popolo Group (R)

This rough matchup between the fourth and fifth seed goes to show the power of the reader vote. Brian immediately said, “these are not ice creams, they are gelatos,” a credit to the brands’ Italian chefs. The judges struggled to pick before ultimately giving Buco the win for its “mind-blowing” pistachio and well-balanced coffee scoops.

Judge’s Vote: 0-5
Winner: Buco Gelato

3. Bonus vs. Pick Pick. Gelato

Image by Aimee Burlamacchi/That's (L) and Cristina Ng/That's (R)

In another heated match-up, newcomer Pick Pick pulled ahead in another close battle as a result of great flavor choice. Mandy perhaps liked it a bit too much saying, “I would like a bit more rum, is it just me?” Bonus got points for a soft, silken texture, but the judges found the Chinese walnut flavor confusing.

Judge’s Vote: 2-3
Winner: Pick Pick. Gelato

4. Charlie's Burger vs. Pistacchio

Image by Aimee Burlamacchi/That's (L) and courtesy Charlie's Burger (R)

In a unanimous vote, the judges gave their support to Pistacchio for their very good pistachio gelato. Cain liked Charlie’s peanut and strawberry choices, but found the chocolate one “ruined this plate.”

Judge’s Vote: 0-5
Winner: Pistacchio

Round 2

1. Flying Flamingo vs. Buco Gelato

Images courtesy of Flying Flamingo (L) and Popolo Group (R)

As the winners from the last round moved forward into new contests, Molly still pushed for Flying Flamingo due to her preference for their blueberry, but Brian pointed out that he still didn’t like the coconut. In the end Buco’s pistachio gelato pushed them to the next round, even though their pepper bergamot is not a judge favorite.

Judge’s Vote: 2-3
Winner: Buco Gelato

2. Pick Pick. Gelato vs. Pistacchio

Images by Cristina Ng/That's (L) and Aimee Burlamacchi/That's (R)

When the judges saw these two brands pitted against each other, they recognized the Pick Pick flavors with Norm remarking, “this is the one we said was going to win it all.” Mandy suggested they put the two pistachio flavors against each other, continuing Pick Pick’s winning streak.

Judge’s Vote: 5-0
Winner: Pick Pick. Gelato

The Finals

1. Pick Pick. Gelato vs. Buco Gelato

final-winner-ice-cream-cup-shangahi.jpgImages by Cristina Ng/That's (L) and courtesy Popolo Group (R)

At this point the judges started getting antsy and we caught them bobbing their heads to Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ when we delivered the final plates. Still this decision was not made lightly as they powered through sugar comas, Buco once again got high marks for the nuttiness of their pistachio, which Norm says has a mouthfeel similar to almond butter. The divisive pepper bergamot, started to grow on the judges, but finally the candied citrus peel was deemed too strong, which allowed Pick Pick to be crowned the ultimate winner.

Judges: Vote: 5-0
Winner: Pick. Pick. Gelato

[Cover image via Pexels]

Hungry for more? Take a look at our other Shanghai Dining Guides

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