Cha An's precise and neatly composed Zenzai ($8.50) starts with chilled matcha soup, bright and slightly sweetened, with a trio of shiratama at the base, little orbs of chewy mochi balls. Above that goes mild, housemade sake ice cream with azuki bean jelly cubes tucked beneath the ice cream. A balance of every texture is presented in this dish, from the sticky chew of mochi to the final crown of a crunchy black sesame tuile, the cookie caramelized just enough to offer sweet smoky notes.
Dessert is often overlooked at sushi restaurants, but not so at 15 East, right off Union Square. End a meal with the Rice Pudding Tempura ($10), two tiny mounds of rice pudding, gently battered and deep-fried. A warm crunch gives way to eggy pudding with a high rice-to-custard ratio. Hot and cold, crisp and soft. The shower of powdered sugar may not be necessary, but you'll be quite pleased with a bold sake kasu ice cream.
At Veritas, pastry chef Emily Wallendjack reinvents the Dark & Stormy cocktail in the form of a killer sticky toffee pudding. Here the steamed pudding, buttery tender and fragrant, meets a rum-laced toffee sauce. A quenelle of spicy ginger-lime ice cream lightens the affair, creamy and full-bodied. Grated lime zest tops the whole plate before the dessert is presented; the resulting scent is borderline intoxicating. If you're a fan of Emily's ice cream, don't miss her seasonal selection of ice creams and sorbet—a taste of six flavors for $10 is the way to go.
Karen DeMasco's Toasted Almond Semifreddo ($10) is the kind of dessert you crave in the late afternoon with a big mug of tea on the side. Only a tad sweet, with an undeniably creamy texture, the semifreddo base is dotted with bits of salt-kissed almond crumbs for the occasional nutty crunch. In the fall, the semifreddo was paired with red wine poached figs, halved and perched against the semifreddo base and a fresh fig sorbetto; but go now and you'll be greeted with a tangy, bright grapefruit mandarin sorbetto. Either way, you can't go wrong.
Spot Dessert Bar
Pichet Ong's Chocolate Marquise ($9) from Spot Dessert Bar is a three-part affair. There's the chocolate marquise itself, a glitter-dusted rectangle, made from a wealth of dark chocolate, heavy cream, and egg yolks. Alternate the ganache-like bites with spoonfuls of Alfonso mango tapioca, a fruity contrast. And to finish, Yakult ice cream, my favorite part of the dessert. Yakult is a Japanese pro-biotic drink, milky in texture with a taste not unlike yogurt. A popular drink in Asia, it's less common in NYC and particularly exciting to discover in the form of ice cream. The result is a creamy, tangy concoction, a light pairing to the heavier elements of the plate.