Dispatches From Cebu: A Taste of Balut Gelato

We head to La Vie Parisienne to try out a very odd ice cream

by Philbert Dy, photo by Philbert Dy

 

La Vie Parisienne isn’t unique to Cebu. There’s are branches in Makati and Quezon City, and if one is just looking for croissants and canelés and reasonably priced bottles of wine, then those will do. La Vie Parissenne in Cebu, however, is a much more elaborate affair. The place is pretty large for one thing, with an outdoor section and an outrageously decorated dining room. The menu is bigger, too. The place is connected to a full French restaurant and an outdoor pizzeria, and you can order dishes from both. There is a selection of beer from local brewing company Cebu Beer Factory. They have four beers on tap, and many others flavored styles in bottles.

 

 

And then there’s the ice cream. There are two full ice cream display freezers taking up space near the entrance, offering up a variety of flavors for 100 pesos a scoop. This is specifically why we ended going to La Vie Parisienne. Just a few days before this trip, a picture of a particular flavor from the establishment started floating around social media: balut gelato.

 

 

The ice cream is a recent addition to La Vie Parisienne, and they’re boasting at least 46 flavors under their home brand La Vie French Artisan Gelato. It turns out that they’re actually known for their stranger flavors: in their past they’ve scooped chili crab, salmon and onion and chive gelatos. But on the night of our visit, the only real strange flavor there is balut.

 

It is an unappealing gray, but nobody gets in balut for the aesthetics. La Vie serves their gelatos on a waffle cup, which tastes pretty good, but can make consuming the ice cream a little more challenging than it really ought to be. The first taste of the balut gelato is pretty surprising, because the ice cream actually tastes like balut. It is cold and creamy like a gelato, but the taste will definitely remind you of the rush of eggy, slightly smelly flavor from the first sip of soup from a freshly cracked duck egg.

 

 

Little has been done to mask the flavor of the balut, which is a pretty admirable impulse. There would be no point to this whole exercise if the ice cream buried the unique attributes of the street snack under a kilo of sugar. Still, it doesn’t quite capture the pleasures of consuming a fertilized duck egg. These flavors don’t really benefit from being served cold, for one thing. And the dish as a whole doesn’t feel wholly thought out. There hard little bits in it that are presumably frozen bits from the processed balut. They are unpleasant in the mouth, and don’t feel like they’re meant to be consumed.

 

It feels like a stunt in the end rather than a dish that’s really meant to be consumed. And it’s kind of a lame stunt, too: it isn’t really as wild and crazy as one would imagine. It mostly tastes like cold balut soup. And in spite of the weird hype surrounding the street food, that taste isn’t really as disgusting or unpalatable as the reality shows make it out to be. There’s some potential in it, though. It’s hard to imagine it serving as a proper dessert, but there might be some value in serving it as a component in a larger savory dish. It’s not bad, overall, but your time in Cebu might be better spent on other things.