Finding winter flowers in wintry New York.
As much as these Dessert Correspondents have come to love New York, we have come to realize that desserts – that sweet, and essential, epilogue to a meal – seems to be widely-overlooked by many restaurants. More often than not, we have found that even at the most exquisite fine dining establishments, desserts are largely, uninspired. A dollop of ice cream or even, soft serve (!), carelessly plopped in a bowl or squirted in some fashion across a plate, a chunky slice of cake that we could find in any bakery for better, or worse still, a mere platter of cookies. Slowly though, we have uncovered some worthy desserts at some restaurants. Hwaban is one such place. Modern Korean in sensibility, the interior of Hwaban is a stark contrast to the old-school bistro oaks or hipster unfinished wood and metal textures pervading many New York restaurants today. More clean cut than an all-male Korean pop music group, and certainly, de-cluttered and sleekly-styled in a way that Marie Kondo herself would undoubtedly gush over, Hwaban is a study of white and grey. Cool white marble tables, stormy grey seating options, opalescent moonball lights, huge white praying mantis-like eyeballs of a sound speaker system — these features are punctuated by springs of yellow wattle blossoms in tiny stoneware vases, and cutlery that glint in tones of gold and brass.
We visited for weekend brunch, a rather subdued experience being one of only three tables. Nonetheless, the desserts were the highlight of the brunch, and we are therefore delighted to share this new dessert adventure with you. We sampled two of four options of the dessert menu. The first was the “Buttercream Flower Cake” ($15), where white buttercream of a light silken texture encased a layered cake of honey pecan tones. The same buttercream was also used to craft the cake’s intricately life-like botanical embellishment. The second dessert was the “Tropical Pavlova” ($15), presented as a sophisticated florist creation — coconut mousse swirled with kiwi and mango cubes, compressed by a concave of meringue, and decorated with twigs of coconut meringue and spots of passionfruit coulis. It was spring sunshine re-imagined on a plate.
When translated from Korean into English, Hwaban means “as beautiful as flower.” And indeed, on a winter weekend of grey cloudy skies and bone-chilling temperatures, where lakes and fountains froze over in New York, these Dessert Correspondents found in Hwaban, desserts that were beautiful winter flowers to brighten, and sweeten, the day.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Hwaban, 55 W 19th Street, Flatiron, Manhattan, New York.
- ☑ Budget: $$$.
- ☑ Sweet irresistible: Restaurant dessert.
- ☑ Must-eat: The buttercream cake and pavlova.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Finding winter flowers in wintry New York.