Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spot - And Thoughts On Dessert Bars

Pichet Ong, the chef at Spot Dessert Bar, has quite the pedigree.  He has worked for Jean Georges Vongerichten, appeared in numerous magazines and TV shows, and written a cookbook called "The Sweet Spot."

I never made it to his last venture, another dessert bar called "P*ng," before it closed.  From what I can remember, it offered a tasting menu that walked the line between sweet and savory--I thought it was an intriguing concept, but perhaps in practice it was a bit too daring.  P*ng shuttered in 2009, and Spot is all desserts.

This dessert bar offers a variety of options, depending on what kind (and how much) of a sweet-lover you are.  You can order a cupcake or softserve, a plated seasonal dessert, or multiple plated dessert "tapas."  You can even order a $50 omakase, which includes 2-4 of just about everything on the menu.

My companion and I opted for 3 dessert tapas for $21.95, which is the suggested amount for two people.  You won't leave hungry:  they may be called "tapas," but they are the size of full restaurant desserts.

First up was the soft cheesecake:

As you can see, it's served in a glass--the real purpose of which, I'm convinced, is to show you just how smoothly the waitress can slide it out.  But I'm glad that she did this, because I would hate to fight anyone to get my spoon to the bottom.

The cheesecake itself , as described, is "soft," and Pichet has somewhat reinvented it.  The texture is somewhere between cheesecake and mousse.  It's softer and creamier than the usual variety but it's firm enough to stand alone.  It isn't very tangy, which I like, but some people might miss the usual hint of lemon.  It's also one of the best deconstructed desserts I've ever had: get a bit of cheesecake, crumb "crust," and fruit topping on your fork, and you'll never know that what you're eating came out of a glass and not a springform pan.

Next was the Ovaltine Panna Cotta:

It was milky, smooth, and not too sweet (thanks--I've still got one dessert to go!)  The caramel popcorn added some salt and the little chocolate balls added some crunch.  My favorite parts may have been the bananas, which were perfectly bruléed.

Finally, the Jackfruit Cake.  It sounds like a spice cake, but because of the jackfruit, it tastes distinctly different from any apple or pear cake or standard fruit cake I've had.  It comes with jackfruit on the side so that you can hone in on what you're tasting.  I liked it, but it might not be for everyone.  Fortunately, you can order three desserts at a time here, so you can afford to take some risks.

Overall, I had a great time at Spot, which is why I'm worried.  When we walked in at around 1pm on a Sunday, the place was completely empty.  Perhaps this is nothing to be concerned about.  Maybe it's only in my world that dessert places should be busy every hour of every day.  But I have seen the lines at Max Brenner and Magnolia, so I know what kind of crazy popularity is possible.

I also know that P*NG closed, not to mention a similar concept called "Room 4 Dessert."  I know that a dessert bar I love in DC, Co Co Sala, changed its concept from 3 course dessert menus to a la carte (it's now thriving.)  I know that Chikalicious Dessert Bar in New York is still in business, but Chikalicious Dessert Club, the more whimsical bakery across the street, seems to get all the buzz.

I don't know exactly what all this means for Spot, but I do know what it means for me:  I'm going to go back for a Chocolate Green Tea Fruit Jam cupcake, and soon.

Spot Dessert Bar
13 Saint Marks Place
New York, NY 10003
(212) 677-5670

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