Getting Your Just Desserts -- for Dinner
It's satisfying your sweet tooth, taken to an extreme -- and it's catching on quickly worldwide. Dessert-only restaurants are all the rage these days, and popping up in more places all the time.
Espai Sucre got the ball rolling when it opened its doors in Barcelona, Spain, in 2000. Perhaps the perpetually long waits at this dessert-only boîte inspired pastry chefs around the globe, who could spot a winning idea when they saw it.
These new eateries aren't like your parents' pastry shops -- they're actual restaurants where diners can order from extensive menus of pastries and sweet drinks. Some, like any other fine-dining restaurant, even offer multi-course dessert meals paired with alcohol. Read on to see where you can go to bring your childhood fantasies of dessert for dinner to life.
Espai Sucre (Barcelona, Spain)Visit the original spot that started the dessert-for-dinner craze. Translated as "sugar space" this minimalist, 30 seat eatery is certainly an homage to sugar. Meals on the perpetually changing menu are four-course affairs, and you'll need an adventurous palate to sample them, since the concoctions here are truly cutting-edge. Try the Ginger Ale with cucumber and pineapple-tarragon sherbet, the salty toffee cream with coffee and smoked whiskey or the pear chicharrones with fennel shoots. Indulge all the way with a wine pairing for each course, and end your experience with petit-fours.
Ethel's Chocolate Lounge (Multiple locations in Illinois)With its plush couches and chairs, you'll feel like you're in a very comfortable living room the minute you enter this pink and brown chocolate haven. The extensive menu includes a personalized chocolate fondue where a pot of melted premium chocolate is served with a choice of dippers including pretzels, marshmallows, pound cake or fresh fruit. Beverages include mudslide mocha latte and decadent, creamy hot chocolate (in the summer, Ethel's offers a cold version).
There is also a tea and truffle pairing where 10 truffles are paired with a selection of matching teas, and there's a cocoa and truffle tasting. The individual confections are handmade and served on bone-white china plates. Among the most popular flavors are almond toffee crisp, coconut samba and the Etheltini, which has a martini filling.
Jean-Paul Hévin (Paris)This elegant restaurant has wood-paneled walls and offers lucky visitors a glimpse into the world of French pastry chef Jean-Paul Hévin. Unique inventions include dessert cheese-flavored appetizers and hazelnuts drenched in a dark chocolate ganache. Summer brings handmade ice creams including rhubarb, mango and passion fruit; winter has steaming, sweet coffee drinks. Order from the huge dessert menu -- tempting offers include the Marquise, a chocolate mousse cake soaked with cognac and rum, a classic French financier, a dense cheesecake, the four-fruit tart and an orange cake.
ChiKaLicious (New York)Don and Chika Tillman -- she's a Japanese pastry chef trained at the French Culinary Institute, he's her husband who adopted her love for desserts -- run this tiny 20-seat East Village eatery. The restaurant offers a three-course menu of an amuse bouche, your choice of a dessert main course and petit fours for just $12. Wine pairing with the meal is an extra $7. The menu is constantly changing, so even repeat diners can probably find something new. The fall 2007 selection included a Vanilla-Cinnamon Baked Fig in Parchment Paper with Port Wine Ice Cream served with a Mistela Tinta Grenache 2004, and Poached Pear with Asian Pear Salad and Lemon-Verbena Ice Cream served with a 2006 Moscato d'Asti Saracco. And ChikaLicious Puddin, which does to-go service, just opened across the street.
Creations Dessert House (San Francisco)An offshoot of the popular Hong Kong dessert spot Hui Lan Shan, this restaurant is devoted to Asian desserts. A bright red door and golden dragon at the entrance open to a space with small redwood tables, orange floors and a bamboo wall. Everything is made from scratch, including the glutinous rice balls with mixed fruits in two fresh juices. The kitchen will squeeze your favorite flavor when you order -- strawberry, honeydew and coconut are just a few of the options. There are also jelly drinks with a Jell-O-like consistency, such as mango with jelly juice and several desserts with red beans. Sago, the white, sweet tapioca pearls, gets major play on the menu. The restaurant touts the health benefits of its offerings: most of the desserts are lighter and have significantly fewer calories than their Western counterparts.
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