Prior to setting off on our US trip I came across a blog mentioning a certain cookie I simply knew I had to sink my teeth into. Situation dark. I mean, what kind of name is that? Located on East 10th Street in the East Village is this hole-in-the-wall dessert place with some of the most coveted seats, I think there are only eight of them, in this neck of the Village. People hover around the entrance, waiting for the first sign of a table clearing and when it does they move in with stealth before someone else does.
Named after pastry chef Chika Tillman, Dessert Club, ChikaLicious is a magnet for those poor unfortunates that simply cannot function without a good dose of sugar. Glazed cupcakes, macaron ice cream sandwiches, eclairs, all these and more are there to tempt your tastebuds.
As for my much-anticipated situation dark ($4) cookie, well, it didn’t rock my world but I did enjoy every mouthful. A dark, fudge-like consistency rich in chocolate with molten globs of peanut butter lurking within all topped with sweet caramel popcorn and salty pretzels. A bit wacky, but we are in America, after all. Our other dessert of molten lava chocolate cake ($5.95) was verging on being average, although I’m never really one to get overly thrilled with a chocolate sponge cake with under-cooked batter at the centre.
Across the road is the forerunner of this little dessert empire. ChikaLicious Dessert Bar, the first of it’s kind to open in New York back in 2003, is set in a white gallery-like room with a few tables to the side and a run of stools up at the counter where one can sit and watch it all happen.
There are a couple of options at the dessert bar – choose what you want from the menu or go with the $16 prix fixe and get an amuse, choice of one dish from the menu plus petits fours. Want wine pairing? Throw in an extra $8 and you get a sticky to go with. Sounds like a deal.
An amuse of crème fraîche & strawberry sorbet kicks off the sugar ride, neither exciting or disappointing us with its flavours. Let’s just say it was a refreshing start.
A ChikaLicious staple is the fromage blanc island cheesecake. Unlike any cheesecake I’ve seen, this one comes teetering on ice cubes and resembles a scoop of ice cream rather than that wedge of Philly cheese cake many of us are used to. It’s light, airy, clearly tastes of white cheese and swims in a shallow pool of cream. My warm chocolate tart, barely two mouthfuls, sits zen-like with its matching swirl of red wine sauce and rapidly melting pink peppercorn ice cream.
Once again I’m unmoved and I’m beginning to question what I was missing and the excitable girls sitting up at the counter were getting. Was I simply not in the mood for desserts? Was my subconscious craving pork belly or dumplings? Who knows. I really liked the matching wines – a 2008 Alvear Pedro Ximenez with the cheesecake and a Churchill Graham Reserve Port with my little chocolate tart. Maybe a visit to a wine bar would have been more apt.
Petits fours are promptly delivered, consisting of coconut marshmallow, poppyseed & lemon shortbread and a cube of chocolate “chimoix” topped with piped choc cream. Ok, I’m beginning to yawn now. Without a doubt a great value prix fixe considering what we got and what city we were in, but something tells me I had high expectations for a more polished, more refined dessert set. For $24, who can complain?