Long-time readers of this dessert blog will know that we have moaned on quite a few previous occasions that many a restaurant in New York, overwhelmingly fail…and fail tremendously… at executing memorable dessert epilogues to an otherwise wonderful meal. An uninspired plate of cookies, a stale slice of cake or a careless plop of ice cream does not constitute a proper dessert in a restaurant. It’s a tragedy that leaves these Dessert Correspondents especially, in a bamboozled state. Why the anti-climax?! 😦 In this volume of “NYC’s Best Restaurant Desserts,” we celebrate the arrival of spring with lighter desserts from four fabulous restaurants.
- Dessert destination: Popular, inside the Public Hotel, East Village/Nolita, Manhattan.
- Budget: $$$.
- Short and sweet story: Located on the ground floor behind neon-lit escalators, Popular is well…very popular indeed. A modern Peruvian restaurant embellished with a veritable Amazonian forest of leafy trees and lush shrubbery, Popular is one of the few places in New York that we have visited since we resumed dining-out that reminds us of pre-pandemic New York — full of energy, graced by gaggles of beautiful New Yorkers, served by gregarious wait staff, it’s ideal for fancy date nights and uproariously fun group parties. The portion sizes of the savoury courses are confusing, with some appetizers larger than some mains, but otherwise each dish is a study of vibrant flavours. Likewise the desserts. Although we won’t order again the flat crisp creation that is the “Quince Cachanga” ($12) laced with butter pecan and dollops of stracciatella ice cream, we will certainly return for the crucible containing shards of “Chirimoya Meringue” ($12) slicing into swirls of orange sorbet and manjar blanco. Dinner ends with dark chocolate morsels that are simply ambrosial. Consider visiting for lunch or brunch as well, where crispy warm churros may be dipped into a pool of chocolate heaven.
- Dessert destination: Sofreh, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
- Budget: $$$.
- Short and sweet story: Now that dining-out — indoor and outdoor — has returned to NYC, reservations at certain restaurants are becoming harder to catch than spotting the Northern Lights. Sofreh would be one of such restaurant. We have lost count of the number of times we refreshed the Resy page just to snag a reservation here. 😦 And was it worth it? Yes if you order that ultra-tender lamb shank. Yes if you order the “Cardammom Rose Cake” ($10), with a hint of rose so subtle that it’s like the first fleeting breath of spring blossoms. And yes again if you order Sofreh’s version of the Iranian faloodeh, a dessert not commonly sighted in NYC — featuring almost imperceptible rose tones, the “Persian Rosewater Sorbet” ($8) instead zings with lime, and redefines the meaning of palate cleanser.
- ☑ Dessert destination: Le Pavillon, Midtown East, Manhattan.
- ☑ Budget: $$$$.
- ☑ Short and sweet story: It’s not very often that when you flip open a dessert menu, you see six desserts on offer. It’s even rarer to see six desserts of artistry beyond a mere cake slice or lackadaisical bowl of ice cream. Empellon, Le Jardinier, Queensyard and Electric Lemon had such beautifully extensive dessert menus. Add to that list, Le Pavillon, an oasis of such refined elegance that it makes you forget that just outside, the streets bordering Grand Central and Midtown Manhattan are in a post-apocalyptic-like chaos of people, rubbish and other unsavouries. By contrast, inside, Le Pavillon is graced with soaring ceilings, embellished with a verdant internal courtyard garden, furnished in neutral tones and staffed by a well-choreographed retinue of wait staff. Dinner is by way of USD $135 (plus tip/tax) 3-course modern European affair and at the epilogue, there awaits a brown pill-shaped dessert that is just what the doctor ordered. 😛 Sitting on a praline base, the “Noisette” is a glazed beauty. It reminded us a little of another hazelnut dessert we had once upon a time before the pandemic at the Recolte dessert bar. Although tending to be a bit too small to be as memorable as the “Noisette,” the other desserts on offer were sophisticated re-interpretations of classics such as the tarte tartin or vacherin pavlova. It would be truly something, we think, if Le Pavillon transformed its sleek bar area into a place for a multi-course dessert-only rendezvous.
- Dessert destination: Laut Singapura, Gramercy/Flatiron, Manhattan.
- Budget: $$.
- Short and sweet story: Being of Malaysian heritage, we are ultra-fussy when it comes to Malaysian food, and in our view, whereas New York has an abundance of excellent Italian, French, Korean and Japanese restaurants, South-East Asian cuisine, including Malaysian restaurants, are disappointingly under-represented. All that said, our favourite laksa in the city may be found at Laut (or its sibling restaurant, Laut Singapura). Also at Laut, one may found the very striking “Coconut Mango Pudding” ($15), three little fishy skimming across the surface of a sapphire blue ocean. At the time of publication, this dessert appears to be currently off the menu, but do look out for it as the weather warms up further.