Sugar fiends, gird your loins: The highly anticipated made-to-order bakery from pastry chef Dominique Ansel is now open for business. Just before the end of April, Dominique Ansel Kitchen (137 Seventh Avenue South; 212-242-5111) unlatched its West Village doors and debuted a new selection of prepared and freshly made sweet and savory treats — sorry, no cronuts included.
With ceiling-height glass windows in the front of the shop, an open kitchen (there are also prep and baking areas upstairs and downstairs), and stadium seating, the new bakery feels significantly more open than the original Soho location. The case is completely different as well. Where guests can pick and choose from the pastry chest of prepared sweets in Soho, here most of the menu is showcased through pictures hanging above a short selection of ready-made desserts and pastries.
There’s something for every palate. As soon as you walk through the door, there’s an interesting assortment of traditional French and American baked goods done with the chef’s inventive touch: brown-sugar kouign-amann (affectionately called “DKA”) ($5.25), croissants ($3), marcona almond lavender croissants ($4.25), and chocolate chip cookies ($3.25). The sage-smoked moist brownie ($4) sits wrapped in paper tied with twine. It’s smoked and warmed when ordered, so it comes out with strong herbal notes and a chewy texture. It’s like the childhood favorite has grown up.
The pain au chocolat 2.0 ($5.50) is the most eye-catching treat here. Piled high with jagged strips of Valrhona dark chocolate laced with flakes of Maldon sea salt and a thin layer of orange butter underneath, it looks like a mountain range of chocolate. The concept was inspired by one of Ansel’s favorite treats as a kid, baguette with melted chocolate on top. I found it a bit too rich and salty, while my guest loved it because it recalled his memories of eating Ansel’s inspiration in Paris. The blueberry laminated brioche ($3.75), on the other hand, blew me away — the sweet bread is caramelized on top, then filled with fresh cream and a balsamic blueberry compote. There’s plenty of sugar, but it’s not cloyingly saccharine.
We both agreed on the merits of the 1:1 lemon yuzu tart ($7), a freshly emulsified blend of citrus in a paper-thin crust. It’s bright and luscious, without the gelatinous coating that usually forms on top of most desserts of its kind. Same goes for the matcha beignets ($5.50), six warm rounds of dough sprinkled with sweetened matcha powder. The result is soothing and satiating; it’s the perfect treat for those who aren’t into overly sugary desserts. And the 48-hour tea-ramisu ($6.50), with black tea and honey-soaked cake with mascarpone, is nuanced and interesting without the bitter bite of traditional tiramisu.
But lest you fill up on sweets, know that the savory dishes are just as much of a draw. The EGG-clipse ($7.50) is a standout. Squid-ink brioche is topped with creamy mashed potatoes, mushroom béchamel, and two confit egg yolks; it’s rich but just the right size. Less exciting but still good is the edamame avocado toast, for which avocado, fresh ricotta, mint, lemon zest, and pickled beets are layered on poppy-seed brioche. The acidic bites with the pickles are nice and well-rounded.
The space is bright, airy, and comfortable, but seating will likely become an issue as the place starts growing a following. A few small tables are set in front of the stadium-style seats inside — we suggest claiming a spot before ordering. Nearly a dozen tables are set out front with benches wrapping around. Chances are you may have to share with another party. On our visit, there was plenty of sharing taking place between parties.
Ansel and his team plan to add a soft-serve ice cream window for the summer and special tasting events in the upstairs kitchen. U.P., short for “unlimited possibilities,” will pair Ansel’s pastries with mixologist-prepared cocktails. Spots for these events will be sold through Tock, the same ticketing system used at Grant Achatz’s Alinea. Ansel is hoping to iron out details within the next few weeks.
This concept is a culmination of years of dreaming for Ansel. After the launch of the cronut and the subsequent fanfare, the chef wasn’t sure what to do next. A conversation with Danny Meyer put him on the path to realizing his ultimate fantasy; Meyer asked Ansel what he would do if the cronut never existed. For Ansel, it was this, a made-to-order bakery that incorporated time into the mix of ingredients. While the concept forgoes his infamous hybrid pastry, we’d wager it will be just as popular as his original bakery.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.