I did a lot of eating out yesterday, starting at Cafe Orlin 41 St. Mark’s Place, New York, NY 10003 for lunch, only to eat some “real” food before checking out Pichet Ong’s new Spot Dessert Bar 13 St. Mark’s Place, New York, NY 10003. I picked up some cupcakes from Chikalicious on my way home, where two hours whizzed by before heading out to a dessert event, which didn’t hold my interest for more than 10 minutes, so I ended up having dinner at Zucco – Le French Diner 188 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002, unexpectedly good but heavy. It took effort, but I still downed the cupcake from Chikalicious by the end of the night, and now I have a dessert hang-over, if there is such a thing.

Vietnamese Coffee Cupcake and tea
When MH suggested we try Spot Dessert Bar, I was game. Cafe Orlin was found, just for a convenience lunch, a block away, but it ended up being a place for good value. My Tunisian eggs were fresh and runny, with a pile of crisped home fries.

Tunisian Eggs

MH had a flavorful Mushroom Ravioli, a little on the heavy side, but again fresh, and with many options under $10, this is a safe place for laid-back lunch.

Mushroom Ravioli

A few hops away, Spot Dessert Bar has a that clean country meets city feel, wood and grass, cool enough but casual enough.

MH at Spot Dessert Bar

The menu is broken up into cupcakes, puddings, cookies, ice cream and sorbets (with a full toppings bar), drinks, and seasonal dessert tapas. You can get three tapas for $18, so of-course we did that, and threw in a cupcake, because both of us couldn’t resist Vietnamese Coffee. The pretty frosting was not as strongly coffee as I expected but we liked it. Unfortunately, the vanilla cake portion was very dry, including the caramel center that looked a little clumpy too.

Vanilla Caramel Vietnamese Coffee Cupcake

The tapas tasting started with Poached Persimmon, which didn’t look appealing to me, kind of a shallow plate of mush. There was a lot going on here, mostly light flavors swimming about. Both of us did like the lemon (possibly with yuzu) sauce that brightened a few bites, but overall not intrigued.

Poached Persimmon

The Jackfruit cake, served warm and soaked, stylistically similar to Caribbean rum cake, was nostalgically pleasing for MH, but too sweet for me.

Jackfruit Cake

The Chocolate Ganache Cake was the winner for both of us, rich and moist, smooth and sultry. It wasn’t too sweet and green tea ice cream and caramel sauce was flecked with sea salt, adding that slightly unusual flare Mr. Ong likes so much. The poached pear was overly ginger-y so I pushed it aside and imagined it wasn’t there.

Chocolate Ganache Cake

The prices are reasonable here but for me Pichet Ong goes too far. Creativity and artistry seem more important than taste.

Pichet Ong

MH wanted me to try the cupcakes at Chikalicious so she walked me over before heading home. That’s what I call a friend, effort in the name of me trying food. I had to save the cupcakes for later knowing that I was heading out to a dessert tasting. It was a waste of calories and time but moving on, Angie and I met Lon at Zucco – Le French Diner, a teeny and dark bar with a French Bull Dog in the window. No pictures here because it was impossibly dark.

I felt out of place, because I wasn’t a hairy man, not that the other diners were, but the place had that kind of motorcycle gang hang-out vibe, and I kept imagining the host/server (probably owner) with a wooden leg, though he did sound more French than pirate. We started with a comforting bowl of French Onion Soup, full of well developed onion flavor, a thick layer of fully melted cheese, and not a drop too salty, as the three of us discussed that most are.

Then, the hanger steak, the most beef-y and manly of steaks. I ddin’t care for the vinaigrette on the little pile of mesculan and the potato gratin was under-seasoned but not matter, I swooned over this hunky meat. The Cassoulet was another winter staple, hearty with such perfectly cooked beans. The pork belly, the duck confit, the sausage, and some patty were all flavorful. What a packed dish. The Lamb Mergeuz sandwich with harissa sauce was over-powered a bit by too much roasted red pepper but the accompanying fries were piping hot and crispy. As a whole the meal felt incredibly satisfying (particularly on a cold winter day) and somehow more French than any fancy place could be. Whether your celebrating a new tattoo, mourning a break-up, or just trying to put on some winter fat, this is that comfort food at reasonable prices.

We were stuffed for hours after and Lon didn’t even want to eat the Chikalicious cupcakes with me. I tried the mocha and it was lighter than expected and not too sweet, which I liked, but I didn’t like the center filling, some kind of bitter and heavy ganache. I still think cupcakes are best made at home, in little batches.

I’ll lay low on desserts today, I promise I’ll try.

posted by jessica at 12:22 PM Filed under French, Fusion or Mixed, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.