Dominque Ansel Kitchen takes to the West Village
The first time I gorged myself silly at Dominique Ansel's Bakery in Soho it was back when we all still lived in the pre-Cronut world. Yes, Ansel was much-acclaimed at the time (he was the Executive Pastry Chef at Daniel for six years before venturing out on his own), and the small, friendly shop was usually pretty bustling. But it was neighborhood crowd mostly, as would be expected at any bakery. And then Ansel unleashed his mad-genius Cronut monster, and soon the Bakery opened every morning to around-the-block lines, every tourist guide in on the planet sent visitors to his place, and a tremendous amount of hype greeted his every next creation. For example: the Frozen S'mores, and the Cookie Shots, which still might be my personal favorite Ansel creation (full disclosure: I've never had a Cronut). And now the chef has finally expanded his realm here in NYC with the brand-new Dominique Ansel Kitchen in the West Village which, in a pair of bold moves, serves about a half dozen savory dishes, and absolutely zero Cronuts.
DAK on the West Side
The new Dominque Ansel Kitchen has attract a predictable amount attention during its opening week (which is to say: a LOT), but though the place was definitely busy on my first two visits, the crowds have been manageable. On a chilly early evening I found a spot no problem on the cool pyramid seating-thing Ansel has set up inside; on a much-warmer mid-afternoon a couple of days later I shared a table with a stranger within the inviting sidewalk cafe area. Basically: it felt festive and lively at DAK, but not insane. There are two (or three) components to the "menu"–already-made sweet (like cookies and his signature DKA's), made-to-order-sweet, and made-to-order savory–which you can read on paper by the register but mostly you'll just look at the large, laminated photo-cards dangling above the display case. Ansel himself made an appearance at one point during my first meal, and everybody swung their iPhones from their food to get a shot at the star.
DAK's Delectable Desserts
My favorite thing so far at DAK was also Ansel's most Ingrammable new savory creation, the beautiful Egg-Clipse, for which the chef places two confit eggs (the yolks look and taste runny, but somehow they're not, what is this magic?!) on top of fluffy mashed potatoes with creamy mushroom sauce, on top of an intense squid ink brioche. This is the dish I know I'll know I'll be craving. Less successful on the savory side was an exceptionally ordinary Sumac Chicken Salad Toast, which tasted like little except "dry". But you don't come to DAK for the chicken, you come for the dessert, and both of my "a la minute" sweets were, maybe not orgasmic, but certainly satisfying. The Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding was terrific–in general, this dish is one of my all-time favorite sweets–but the overly-gimmicky format, with the "sticky" bready part rolled into a cylinder around oozing creme freche, was kind of unnecessary, and mostly just made it difficult to eat. More straightforward and also pretty terrific was the generously portioned bowl of Made-to-Order Chocolate Mousse, the slightly soupy, nicely sweet dessert served with a crisp, chocolate-dipped cookie that could, I guess, also be used as your spoon.
When and Where to Go
Dominique Ansel Kitchen is located at 137 Seventh Avenue South between Charles and West 10th Streets, and is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 9:00 to 7:00. There will be some nighttime hours, from 7:00 to 9:00, soon.