The concept of the celebrity pastry chef is a new and, to me, bizarre one. All I want after dinner is a scoop of sherbet. But you can't have a fine-dining experience in New York without a complex, composed dessert, and these are the dessert chefs that shine the most in this strange, sweet field.
Still, to my mind, the defining New York restaurant, Gramercy Tavern is the crown jewel in Danny Meyer's restaurant group, partially as the result of chef Michael Anthony's amazing greenmarket cooking, and partially because of its incredible service, great cocktails, and Nancy Olson's superb dessert program. One caveat: the front room is all air and color and excitement, and the back room is a drab dungeon.
Whether you swoon for its 4 star food, or find it, as I do, somewhat over manicured, there is no question that this is one of the great restaurants in America. The room itself has a grandeur that is unmatched and the level of service is unparalelled. So is the price, so maybe come here on an expense account or with a wealthy uncle.
Danny Meyer's restaurants are all great, but none have had the urbanity and social cachet of this superb effort on the ground floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Modern is so good, with such original cooking and such impeccable service, that it would automatically be the best restaurant in nearly any other city.
Momofuku Milk Bar is a bakery with such a sky-high hype factor that it is easy to forget just how good it really is. A spinoff of the wildly overrated Momofuku restaurants, this small dessert outlet is best known for its "cereal milk" custard and "crack pie," neither of which are really that exceptional. (The latter is basically just butter and sugar.) But the cakes, which change from month to month, are uniformly brilliant and the perfect gift to bring to a party, or just to bring home.
The bearded bards of dark chocolate, the Mast brothers, have come to personify the artisan-hipster movement, complete with twee design, prophet beards, and an unswaying commitment to the quality and integrity of their eponymous candy bars.
Just a perfect restaurant. The food is superior, if not great; the room is sunny and electric, and the lunch, dinner, and dessert programs are all equally perfect. The ultimate Manhattan casual Italian restaurant.
Michael White's venture in haute provencal cuisine -- some Italian, some French -- is a culinary triumph, albeit in a somewhat sterile city. The room is big and quiet though, and makes a great spot for an elegant, sunlit breakfast.
The french dessert master has essayed every kind of sweet, from custard to coulis, and with his new bakery takes on the most popular dessert of the moment: macarons.