In the summer of 2008, we brought your our Guide to the Best Doughnuts in NYC. For that, we trekked up and down the city, eating doughnuts in every bakery and doughnut shop we could find—an exhausting, but intrepid effort.
But this time, we bring you the Top Five Fancy-Pants Doughnuts In New York City. "Fancy pants" doughnuts reside in higher-end restaurants, where the plates of fried dough might average $10. A higher price, to be sure—but one that factors in the cost of service and personal real estate at a classy establishment.
Some criteria of the standard fancy-pants doughnut? Served in a restaurant, of course. Always fried to order, and delivered piping hot. And the doughnuts come with "sides"—whether they be dipping sauces, or shooters, or ice cream, they do not sit alone.
After the jump, our five favorites.
$12 at Craft gets you the Boston Cream Doughnuts, a perfectly round duo whose top halves have a crisp and well-fried exterior, glazed over in a glossy sheen of dark chocolate. I bit into the first doughnut and cream—vanilla, rich and cool—burst right out. It is a deliciously messy feast. Beneath the doughnuts, a bed of blueberry compote, sweet popping bites of the summer fruit. To accompany, graham cracker-studded cheesecake ice cream, nut brittle, and a shot of malted milk to finish. You could almost deem this a complete meal.
Whereas the Craft numbers have substance and weight, the doughnuts at Aldea ($10), properly named "Sonhos," or little dreams, are perfectly light, warm two-bite fluffs. I tried to keep track of how many were nestled into the folded cloth—six, seven—but I ate much too quickly to recall. Once you start, it's difficult to stop.
The doughnuts are competed by a trio of dipping sauces, all bold in flavor—a surprising counterpart to the weightless, airy wonders. The spiced chocolate is the best of the trio, simultaneously silky and aggressive. I started off dipping the doughnuts, then took to spooning mouthfuls (a much more effective route), alternating the spiced chocolate with a brightly flavored smoked paprika apricot, and finally, a chilling and full-bodied hazelnut praline.
Perilla's doughnuts ($9) come square-cut in a tidy trio, fried golden and dusted in just enough sugar. The thin crunch of the outermost layer, the plush dough with just a hint of vanilla, and only then, the lemon curd—luxurious and bright, rich with tangy zest. These doughnuts had the most luxurious mouthfeel of the set, dense and supremely moist. Your accompaniment at Perilla? A shot of peppermint refresher.
Five oblong beignets ($10) to an order at The Modern, each with a hole punctured in the middle, as if to create a finger hold, a gripping element so that one could dip each into bowls of supple caramel or a tart mango marmalade. That third bowl at the top left? Maple ice cream, to be eaten with a spoon, of course. Relative to the other restaurants on this list, the Modern doughnuts were fried lightest, and the only ones finished with powdered sugar.
No proper fancy-pants doughnut roundup could leave off the famed "Coffee and Doughnuts" at Per Se, cinnamon sugar dusted and made from brioche dough. Simple, classic, and done flawlessly... doughnut hole included. On the side, a cup cappuccino semifreddo topped off in foam. No accompaniments in any of these top five doughnuts were afterthoughts, but the accompaniment at Per Se was the only one that could have easily succeeded as a dessert on its own.
Honorable mention: Al Di La
Honorable mention goes out to the ricotta fritters at Al Di La. Not doughnuts, if you must be technical, but we couldn't bear to leave these out. Fried plops of dough, sweet and utterly incredible. Fresh ricotta is folded into the batter, and there's just the slightest hint of nutmeg. Crisp, straight out of the oil, to be dipped with abandon into ramekins of liquid dark chocolate and clouds of fresh whipped cream.