Spot Dessert Bar
Split open this Lava Cake from Spot Dessert Bar and it's not the usual chocolate that flows out, but instead, a warm green tea and white chocolate ganache. It's an unexpected, sweet departure from the ordinary, and a must for anyone with a green tea obsession. The two flavors make a perfect pairing, and don't forget about that scoop of green tea ice cream, almost made in-house.
Though you can find molten chocolate cakes at any number of restaurants throughout the city, Cafe Boulud does a particularly good version. It's a picture-perfect round topped with a glossy disk of dark chocolate. Devour as your please; I like to slice it in half and watch the hot molten chocolate flow out, spoon up the interior first, then eat the warm cake. They change accompaniments from time to time, but it's usually paired with vanilla or coffee ice cream.
At Casa Nonna, pastry chef Julie Elkind's dessert menu puts a sophisticated twist on Italian classics. The highlight is this fine Torrone Semifreddo. A thin layer of almond sponge cake serves as the base for the semifreddo, a whisper-light elegant cylinder incorporating bits of torrone, the Italian confection of honey, sugar, and nuts. The semifreddo is purposefully light to balance the dark chocolate, which comes into play when the waiter pours on the easy-flowing warm chocolate sauce tableside. Wait a minute to harden and then crack, like a Magic Shell.
ChikaLicious Dessert Bar
The chocolate and vanilla éclairs that ChikaLicious turns out aren't just any éclairs, but cookie éclairs—so named because of that little extra crunch over the shell surface, similar to the double-layered shell method of Beard Papa's. With this ice cream sandwich, that same choux pastry shell is sliced open horizontally, filled with housemade vanilla bean soft serve, and then topped with hot chocolate fudge. Fork and knife required. Messy, but wonderful, with the soft-serve and dark, smooth fudge melting into hollows of the choux pastry.
La Fonda del Sol
At La Fonda del Sol, the Buñuelos are heavenly light, closer to a fried choux pastry than a classic doughnut dough. The warm fritters are accompanied by a trio of dipping sauces. That's salty caramel, a passion fruit with pink peppercorns, and saving the best for last—a warm orange and dark chocolate dip. What you don't finish by dipping the fitters, you'll want to spoon up and leave nothing to waste. These fritters remind me a lot of the ones from Aldea, where they're called Sonhos, or "little dreams." If those are little dreams, then these are big ones—but with that perfect whisper of a shell, the fleeting crisp of the cinnamon-sugar dusted exterior.
Peter Luger's does an incredible ice cream sundae. The whipped cream is so thick that if it was whipped for a few more seconds, it might end up as butter. It holds up to the equally thick hot fudge, liberally doused over the entire sundae. Vanilla ice cream is from the reliable Haagen Dazs. There are crushed walnuts, a cherry, and a chocolate cow to finish. Get in all one bite, and it all comes together—the crunch of walnuts, sinking into the fudge-laced cream, a glorious mouthful, all bound by vanilla ice cream.
Served on the lunch dessert menu, Ciano's Valrhona Hot Chocolate is part drink and part dessert. Still steaming, it's presented in a deep and wide cup, the surface a swirl of pure white, liquid chocolate and a scatter of cocoa powder. The white is a play on malted marshmallows, more like a slow melting cream, the malt flavor present from the first sip to the last. Stir with your spoon and drink up.