good shmeats

one food-loving vegetarian taking New York City's restaurants one plate at a time.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Chocolate Room - Park Slope






The Chocolate Room
86 Fifth Avenue (at Prospect Place)

Last March I took my visiting parents to The Chocolate Room, a chocolate boutique and cafe that conveniently happens to be located at the end of my Park Slope block. My father ordered a Bittersweet Hot Chocolate ($4.00), took one sip, and proclaimed it the best he had ever tasted (no small compliment from an 81-year old man).

The brainchild of husband/wife team Jon Payson and Naomi Josepher, The Chocolate Room serves a selection of artisanal sweets which appeal to an adult palate. Customers are ushered in by deep brown walls, dim lighting, and sophisticated music that lilts above the collective hum of patrons' conversations. A glass case of truffles, handcrafted by chocolatier Fritz Knipschildt, and including chili/tangerine, black currant and white chocolate/cardamom combinations, gleams extravagantly. But lest one wax too poetic, the menu also evokes a healthy dose of child-like chocolate euphoria (imagine walking into Willy Wonka's chocolate fantasy room).

The Hot Chocolate my father loved (as did my desert-mate on my most recent visit to The Chocolate Room) boasts a 60% Belgian bittersweet chocolate content. Served in petite brown mugs, the warm drink shares every luscious quality of a melted chocolate bar. I was tempted to use my finger to scoop out the remaining trace of chocolate which coated the inside of the empty mug, but reluctantly managed to resist. Somewhat less intoxicating is the Classic Hot Cocoa ($4.50), which comes infused with bourbon vanilla. The thought of this cocoa evokes memories of cozy winter nights, but delivers a somewhat bland, milky flavor and excessive foam in place of a thick marshmallow.

Guests at The Chocolate Room are treated to a complimentary nibble upon sitting down -my fellow diners and I received a tiny sliver of soft white cake in a puddle of chocolate ganache. After significant deliberation, we decided to try the Chocolate Room Pudding ($5.00) and one of the specials - a Chocolate Tart with raspberry sauce and vanilla-flecked whipped cream. The pudding was cling-to-your-spoon rich, and topped with an indulgent dose of soft whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Although the pudding's initial flavor was powerful, it did not ultimately lead anywhere. I enjoyed this dish, but missed the chocolate pudding my mother and I used to make, which revealed several subtle layers of flavor across the span of each bite.



The tart turned out to be truly special. A firm crispy chocolate shell encased a rich mound of thick filling. The monochromatic desert was surrounded by a brilliant red stream of raspberry puree, which cut smartly through the filling's rich sweetness. A pouty, full raspberry rested on the pillow of speckled whipped cream, crowing the desert. Visually stunning and decadent, this dessert was the highlight of our chocolate meal.

An experience at The Chocolate Room in Park Slope does not fade quickly. My father still mentions his favorite Hot Chocolate, almost a year later. I can still vividly recall the taste of tart raspberry sauce mingling with the sweet chocolate confection. Upon leaving I heard a woman at the table next to me (who had just been handed a menu) quietly breathe, "oh my!" I smiled knowingly at her excitement while, with a rather childish jealousy, secretly wished I could join her.

For a "sweet" article about this amazing husband and wife chocolate team, click here

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