A goldmine of dessert creativity in midtown Manhattan.
When one visits a restaurant, it is not a significant demand to expect that desserts are more inspired, more creative, and taste better than a dessert snack one could order from more casual patisseries and bakeries. Unfortunately, as we have moaned before, many a restaurant in New York, are disappointments in this epilogue to a meal. When we heard that a restaurant in Midtown Manhattan – Empellon – diverged from the soporific dessert menu formula of other Manhattan restaurants, we leapt up from our stupor and made a reservation.
We visited Empellon for a weekend dinner. It was a typical Midtown-type of restaurant – dual-level spacious, stainless-steel sexy, expensively brash (think $100+ tacos), Mexican cuisine modernized and seriously upscaled. What stood out for us (and what demands revisits) were the desserts. From the dessert menu, the first dessert we sampled was the “Corn Ice Cream Taco” ($8 each). Disclosure: we love corn. We dream of running through corn fields catching the sunlight as it filters through the leafy stalks, and our weird quirk is that we would eat corn in whatever form, whether straight out of a can or out of a steaming pot of water. So, when we saw “corn” on the dessert menu, these Dessert Correspondents knew we had to try this particular dessert. At Empellon, the corn dessert was a small, stroopwafel-like pocket, encasing corn ice cream saltier than the corn ice cream found in South East Asia. Here, it was further embellished with a swirl of cream and perched on a bed of addictive Peruvian corn nuts, or cancha. Result: Delicious.
Sweeter in profile, and more universally loved by our dessert-dining companions, was the “Pineapple” ($16), where a caramelized wheel of almost-jelly-like pineapple was accompanied with an orb of ice cream infused with the floral tones of chamomile tea. The “Apple” (or “Strawberries” as sampled on an earlier visit) ($8) were re-imaginations of the eponymous fruit – deconstructed into petite bites, and crafted in a way that reminded us of the molecular gastronomic inspirations of a decade ago. Bouncing baubles of apple-scented jelly one way, smears of apple cream another, and even apple-infused foam puffed onto on another creation. While one might not always understand each bite, the unpredictability and surprise factor of this dessert was most welcome in this current era of meh-desserts pervading other NYC restaurants.
And as to our favourite dessert at Empellon? That would have to be the “Avocado” ($16) – for all those avocado-haters out there (us included!), this was not an avocado of utter pale green blandness. Rather, it was the best part of a key lime pie made into a light ice-cream or parfait-like creation. Zinging with citrus and eucalyptus tones, and lightened further by the lemon ice crystals, there was just a hint of avocado. Wow.
One word to summarize Empellon’s desserts? Hurray! For a goldmine of dessert creativity, accented with a modernized Mexican sensibility, we are most thankful for Empellon.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Empellon, 510 Madison Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, New York.
- ☑ Budget: $$$.
- ☑ Sweet irresistible: Restaurant dessert.
- ☑ Must-eat: The Avocado and the Pineapple.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: A goldmine of dessert creativity in Midtown Manhattan.