The Taproom at Colicchio and Sons is a huge space with a tall ceiling. But when the Warm Chocolate Tart ($12) arrived at our table, it felt like the whole room smelled like freshly baked chocolate. It wasn't just the fragrance that was inviting. The presentation includes an aesthetically pleasing mix of elements, like a sculpted wave of almond butter and milk chocolate feuilletine.
Although there are many components on the plate, the small chocolate tart is the focus. It's served warm, intensely chocolatey, and the inner texture is like that of light flourless chocolate cake or slightly heavy soufflé. A buttery but firm chocolate crust holds the filing. If this dessert consisted only of this tart and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it would still be a success. However, pastry chef Stephen Collucci adds an entire spectrum of fantastic textural elements to make it so much more.
Super-crunchy dragee almonds take up a fair amount of the plate. They're made with a less commonly seen, clear crystalized coating versus the solid opaque colors of Jordan almonds you often encounter at weddings. There's also plenty of flaky milk chocolate feuilletine that's held in place by the almond butter. And to make absolutely certain no chocolate lover who orders this dessert is unsatisfied, Collucci includes a large decorative chunk of milk chocolate in the middle of the dish.
A small quenelle of lightly sweetened coconut milk ice cream is the perfect compliment to all the chocolate on this plate. It provides just enough of a breather so you can dive back in and finish devouring everything.
It's an unpretentious fine dining dessert that keeps comfort at its core. Collucci who certainly knows comfort desserts (we featured his doughnut cookbook here in August) once told Serious Eats, "I love making things that should not be at a three-star restaurant." That may be true, but this dessert would be equally at home at a three-star restaurant or gastropub.