When Kariton Sorbetes opened in 2020, co-founder John Rivera’s father would taste test the new flavours before they were served to customers. Three years later, the younger Rivera has learnt to hold back some of his wackier flavour combinations and has a much better hit rate. “I feel like I know what works in terms of gelato now; [Dad] doesn’t knock it back as often as he used to.”
In this time, Kariton has also become one of Melbourne’s most talked-about ice-cream shops, known for Filipino-inspired flavours like keso (cheddar-cheese gelato with cashews and crackers), ube halaya (purple-yam gelato with purple-yam fudge) and proot shake (young-coconut sorbet with jasmine-tea gel and preserved tropical fruit).
Rivera and co-founder Minh Duong both worked in kitchens at top restaurants – including Sunda and Maha respectively) – before launching Kariton as a delivery-only operation. By early 2022 they’d opened a scoop shop in Footscray. A flagship store followed in Chinatown later that year, where all the flavours are now made. A Glen Waverley location has been on their minds for a long time. “We knew we had a big market [here],” Rivera tells Broadsheet. “Our customers were telling us, ‘You need to open in the east.’”
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The third store is on Springvale Road, a few minutes from the Kingsway restaurant strip and not far from The Glen shopping centre. While the original Footscray location is rustic with stained windows, wood and natural tones, and Chinatown is like a futuristic Asian metropolis, the Glen Waverley store is decidedly retro. The ceiling is spray-painted gold, the floor has pops of pink and the walls are adorned with crystal chandeliers inspired by ornate dresses popular in 1970s Manila. Architect Stefan Bagnoli, who designed the two other Kariton stores, returned for the project, which Rivera describes as “1970s Austin Powers.”
The menu features “everything you’d expect from a Kariton store” – which means eight variations on classic Australian ice-creams, including the Champtop, a riff on the choc-top with cacao-and-toasted-rice gelato with fish-sauce caramel, and the Yemabon, Kariton’s version of a Maxibon, featuring malted milk gelato with a miso-fudge middle, sandwiched between two salted-egg-yolk biscuits and dipped in caramelised white chocolate.
There are 12 more flavours on offer, with a minimum of three vegan options plus two specials that change fortnightly. One of the specials currently available at Glen Waverley is the Xavi Andy: milk gelato smashed with banana bread, crunchy peanut butter and Nutella – “inspired by my toddler son’s breakfast”, Rivera says. There are also tubs of former specials – like the Matcha Maker (matcha gelato with bits of raw chocolate and azuki-bean paste) and the Rhuby Riot a plant-based number with zingy rhubarb-and-red-shiso sorbet – available to take away. “For me that’s the perfect sorbet to have, say, after you go to a Thai or Chinese [restaurant] or you go have some hotpot in Glen Waverley,” says Rivera.
There’s also a take on the Philippines’ national dessert, halo-halo, which means “mix together” in Tagalog. The Kariton version is made with ube gelato, jackfruit, banana chips, preserved coconut, pandan jelly, toasted rice flakes, malted corn flames, ube fudge, red tapioca flavoured with cherries, pandan-flavoured ice and a leche-flan cream. “It is literally my mum’s leche flan [recipe] that we’ve blended up into the most addictive puree you’ll have,” Rivera says.
Kariton Sorbetes Glen Waverley
265 Springvale Rd, Glen Waverley
Mon to Wed 1pm–10pm
Thurs & Fri 1pm–11pm
Sat & Sun 12pm–11pm