Cocoa Bar on Clinton
With the city suddenly awash in excellent dessert-centric dining establishments—Kyotofu, Room 4 Dessert, P*ong, the relatively venerable Chikalicious, Sam Mason's upcoming Tailor, to name a few—you've got to do more than just open your doors in a happening neighborhood, dim the lights, pour some booze, crank up the generic lounge music, and expect people to go out of their way to join you... you've got to actually produce desserts that are, at least to some degree, extraordinary.
And by that criteria, Cocoa Bar is a bust.
After a movie at the Sunshine last Saturday night, Debbie and I had a hankering for something sweet, and so decided to check out this new Lower East Side branch of the popular Park Slope spot. Well, that's not really true... it was me with the hankering—Debbie's "not a big dessert person," as I've been hearing for exactly 3 years and 13 days now—but she was happy to be my date in the endeavor. Anyway, we got comfy in the dark, very brown, reasonably stylish place, ordered a cappuccino, a pot of black tea, one bonbon, one truffle, two full-fledged desserts, and were impressed by exactly nothing.
The white chocolate wasabi truffle? It was OK—maybe a little heavy on the heat—but Vosges does a much better job with these sorts of combinations. The passion fruit bonbon? Jacques Torres makes a superb version, as does MarieBelle; this Smuckers-y mess wasn't much different than something from a Whitman's Sampler. My "entree" was a totally disappointing chocolate peanut-butter torte, reputedly drizzled with caramel sauce (there was some visual evidence of this, but I couldn't taste anything). Too salty, too cold, too blah; you can get a better treat at any number of coffee shops around town. Debbie's order was the best, but still not really good: a ho-hum chocolate peanut-butter brownie topped with a scoop of banana-walnut "gelato" (it was ice cream) and more of that flavorless caramel sauce. This was like eating a banana. In fact, Debbie's tea tasted more chocolately than either one of our desserts.
Cocoa Bar is on Clinton Street between Houston and Stanton. The staff was cheery but distracted with each other. The atmosphere is very much second- or third-date, hoping to get lucky.