Thursday, August 26, 2010

Spot Dessert Bar Review

After any fulfilling dinner, what I usually want is a good dessert. Sometimes the place you're at just doesn't offer many good options, but sometimes moving to a new place is a good way to extend an evening. I often lament the lack of places in the city to turn to just for dessert, a place where you won't be made to feel unwelcome for taking up a table where people are still seeking out an evening meal or where the restaurant would prefer you imbibe expensive cocktails.

So, I was excited to try out Spot Dessert Bar in the East Village, opened by pastry chef Pichet Ong, chef at Village Tart and who previously owned the now closed dessert bar P*ong. Spot serves up slightly experimental Asian twists on American desserts. P*ong had a similar bent, but seemed to fall too heavily on the Asian side and I was not charmed by my one experience there. But the menu at Spot relies more on traditional favorites, such as cheesecake, ice cream and cupcakes (though the main desserts are confusingly labeled as tapas) and the setting is fun and casual.

The servers are extremely friendly and helpful with ordering, explaining the background of the place, what the desserts entail and making recommendations. They are perhaps also good salesmen; we upgraded from ordering individual desserts to the omakase tasting, which would get us more dessert than we needed but was a better deal and a great way to extensively sample the menu.

The Yuzu Eskimo were slices of a citrus ice cream and oreo crumbles with strawberries and passion fruit foam. I didn't detect a strong citrus flavor, but I love an ice cream cake with chocolate crunchy things.

The Soft Cheesecake was more like a "cheesecake" made of whipped dollops of cheese with orange, blueberries, walnut cookie crumbs,  and raspberry foam. Despite having long spoons to reach inside the cup, this was clumsy to eat. It became more manageable when one of my dining companions decided to dump the ingredients out on to the plate. The cheese was strong and a little rich for our tastes, but the fruitiness of the other ingredients played off of it well.

Lime leaf pavlova with coconut sorbet, champagne soaked cherries and more passionfruit foam. My dining companions really liked this one, but I don't particularly like meringue cookies. The coconut sorbet on the other hand was intense and won me over though I prefer coconut in savory dishes.

Chocolate Marquis with alfonso mango tapioca and yakult ice cream. The chocolate mousse-like cake was delicious and, crucially, made from dark chocolate. I liked the texture of the tapioca, but would have preferred a fruit other than mango. The ice cream, made from a Japanese yogurt drink, had a slightly sour taste; I appreciated trying a new flavor.

The White Miso Semifreddo alternated with slices of olive oil cake and our server informed us was drizzled with olive oil to "cut the sweetness." The semifreddo didn't have too strong of a flavor but the olive oil cake was solid and filling. A raspberry tea sorbet was a nice accompaniment along with some candied sesame.

The omakase allowed for two scoops of ice cream with two toppings. Our first scoop paired Vietnamese Coffee ice cream with chocolate pearls, which were like chocolate covered rice krispies. It wasn't as sweet as I expected it to be and the ice cream could have been smoother. 

The condensed milk ice cream was just slightly sweet but didn't have much creaminess or flavor to it, but paired well with the strawberries.

Everything here is made in house, including the cupcakes and cookies. We tried the Mocha Maldon Salt Caramel cupcake and a Yuzu Lemon cupcake. Both of these were left mostly uneaten, partly because we had approached fullness, but also because the cake was too dry and the frosting more buttery and not exuding the advertised flavors enough. We also had a Japanese almond cookie and a chocolate chip coconut cookie, which were both decent.

Though not everything was a hit, I still found the omakase a fun experience as a group. Now I have a good sense of what Spot does well and not so well and when I return, I'd stick to the "tapas" section of the menu.

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