A former Prohibition-era gambling school is transforming into a speakeasy of a different kind: an underground dessert bar.
Tucked into the once-illicit basement of the hit French bakery Patisserie Chanson is Dessert Bar, opening Sept. 7. Upstairs, Michelin-starred chef Rory Macdonald turns out classical French cakes, pastries and breads paired with coffee in a modernist space.
Downstairs, he’s embraced the space’s heritage with carvings of playing cards on the wall and low light, with guests seated at a wide 16-seat bar where desserts are assembled in front of them.
“Having a dessert bar has been a dream of mine pretty much since I’ve been a chef,” Macdonald says. “What we’re trying to achieve is really for you to see all the work that goes into it, rather than at a restaurant where it just arrives and you eat it.”
The tasting menu officially spans six courses, “but in reality it’s closer to 10 or 12,” he explains. “We start with aperitivos and we end with digestifs, as if this was a normal meal.” Courses are laid out like sheet music, each with high and low notes instead of tasting notes.
The first few courses start out more savory but still very much in keeping with the theme of dessert, with ingredients like moliterno (an Italian goat’s milk cheese) with black truffle, olive oil gelato and pancetta.
Then come delicate plates of vanilla panna cotta with a jus of local strawberries and Champagne foam, a sculptural cake of miso with a marbled slice of grapefruit, sweet-looking heart-shaped apples with a kick of jalapeno. “We use honey as the sweetener for everything, so any sugar in the dessert will be natural sweetness,” Macdonald says. “The whole thing we’re trying to achieve is balance so when you leave here, you’re not in a sugar rush.”
Gluten and nut allergies can be accommodated, and the menu will change with the seasons.
There’s also an optional paired drinks menu with your meal, featuring two cocktails and a mix of Champagnes and dessert and fortified wines — the idea, again, is not to overwhelm you so that you feel uncomfortable (or in this case, hammered) by the end of the meal.
Macdonald and a mixologist spent weeks tasting each dessert with 10-15 different drink pairings. And while “Champagne will go with almost everything,” he admits, “it would be nice if people really trust us to go with a pairing because it really elevates everything and becomes an experience, not just having dessert.”
The whole experience is meant to last two hours, but patrons are welcome to stay and enjoy their last few drinks for another 45 minutes. “Once you finish dessert, you want to sit back, relax a little bit,” says Macdonald. “Then you leave at your leisure.” Talk about comfort food.
Dessert Bar at Patisserie Chanson is located downstairs at 20 W. 23rd St. Open Wed-Sat with seatings at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. The tasting menu is $68; add drink pairings for $52. Must be 21+. For reservations, call 929-423-8880 or visit reserve.com/r/chanson.