Dessert for Dinner

Give me an order of steak frites over creme brulee any day. But show me the door to any number of New York's ever-popular dessert bars, and I'd be quick to convert.

Dessert as a meal is only growing in popularity.

I first hit ChikaLicious in the East Village several years ago. This sliver of a bar sits no more than two dozen guests and the two pastry chefs prepare the desserts in front you in a minimally-decorated space. You won't be sampling yet another dark molten chocolate cake or apple pie and ice cream. Instead, think along the lines of caramel pastry cream on genoise cake with Granny Smith Apple sorbet, pumpkin mousse and pecan shortbread Napoleon or steamed quince pudding with vanilla anglaise and Asian pear salad. For $12, you can devour an amuse, your choice of a dessert entree and petit fours.

The eponymous David Chang now has his own dessert outlet, Momofuku Bakery and Milk Bar. Other dessert specialties in the city include Room4Dessert, Pong and of course, countless cupcake purveyors.

When I stopped at ChikaLicious this week (I had the fruit risotto topped with an almond crisp and almond sorbet pictured above), I was reminded of what one chef at school told us: that sometimes restaurants with a single theme or focus can succeed and make more money. Our chef told us how he struggled to turn a profit with a menu for his French bistro that focused on a number of classic dishes while trying to keep up with costs (like Manhattan's high rent, utilities, paying employees, etc.).

Maybe that's one reason fast food chains do well? The menu is limited, people know what to expect and it's easier to be consistent.

I don't think I'd love a job making crepes or omelets over and over every day. But a dessert concept could convince me.

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