Posts Tagged ‘deconstructed desserts


Michel Richard knows his way around a dessert

Napoleon a la Michel

Now that’s a napoleon (mille-feuille)!

A while back, I had the good fortune of stuffing my face at a work lunch at Central in downtown DC, a Michel Richard joint. The chef’s known for his playful turn with foods (as well as looking a lot like Santa Claus).

A profile of Richard that ran in The Washington Post many years ago revealed one of his culinary inspirations: KFC’s fried chicken. Yup, his haute cuisine is inspired by the Colonel. That gives you some insight into why his creations, sweet or savory, are big on contrasting textures and often have a crispy element.

Michel's crunch bar from Central

Those of us who didn’t order Michel’s crunch bar were jealous of those who did.

Without further ado, here’s a rundown of the 3 Central desserts we tried.

The restaurant’s best-known treat is Michel’s chocolate bar, the chef’s Kit Kat-inspired happy ending. This was chocolate-y without being cloying, and had a nice crispy texture. If you’re unsure which dessert to try, go with this one. It was the all-around favorite.

The gimungous size and presentation of my napoleon made for some envious looks around the table. But the layered pastry and cream, while delicious, needed a little kick. A drizzle of chocolate or fruit puree, or even the traditional napoleon icing, would’ve made for less monotonous eating. It’s unusual that I don’t finish a dessert, but I left some of this on the plate.

The disappointing lemon bar from Central.

The lemon tart didn’t find many fans at our table.

My comrades in gustatory indulgence who ordered this lemon tart weren’t super happy with it. It’s a layer of shortbread topped with bland lemon mousse topped with meringue. Next to the more showstopping dessert options, this one’s a dud.

A peek at Central DC's kitchen.

Central’s kitchen, where the pastry magic happens.


Assembly-required key lime pie

This here’s the deconstructed key lime pie from America Eats Tavern, a Jose Andres joint in the former Café Atlantico space. (It’s a pop-up whose run got extended due to its popularity.) For those of you wanting to try America Eats, I’d say go for it. Yes, the menu sounds incredibly off-putting, but the food was solidly good (short ribs, hush puppies, grits) and the overall experience is unique.

When I went with coworkers, we were seated right next to Minibar. Thankfully, I was pretty happy with my food so I didn’t need to knock a Minibar patron out of their stool to get some of what they were having.

The desserts, however, I’d pass on. If I ate solely with my eyes, they’d be winners. But when I get dessert, I want something I can sink my teeth into (literally). Foams, dirts, or anything made with dry ice have become a red flag for presentation over satisfaction. It just doesn’t make for very gratifying eating.

Why the deconstructed desserts trend needs to go away:

1)      Deconstructing something doesn’t necessarily make it taste any better.

2)      The portions tend to be smaller because you’re spreading the ingredients all around a plate—and where foams are involved, pumping air into it. Therefore I feel like I’m getting gypped.

3)      I’m not sure whether it’s laziness posing as creativity.