A Casual, Laid Back Lunch (of sorts) at Amai Tea & Casual Elegant Desserts at La Maison du Chocolat
Saturday was kind of unusual for me. It’s rainy yet warm, I feel so stinkin’ tired because I want to finish up my papers…and I passed by an anti-war protest in Union Square as I walked around the Greenmarket (or Farmers’ Market, as most New Yorkers call it). I know the latter didn’t make sense, but it follows the “unusual” part on a tangent…
Since I don’t want to eat out in the rain from picking up a few pastries in the Market, I seek shelter and submerge myself into a cup of tea and some pastries. Remembering from reading on Chowhound that Amai is open recently, I walked over there and check the place out.
Entering this casual, exposed brick tea house, it feels welcoming and laid back. There’s a tall shelf of teas, cookies, and brownies on one side of the wall, on the other side is a refrigerated beverage case what is taking most of the narrow space is the pastry, tea, and coffee counters where it takes center stage.
I perused the selections of cookies and pastries, and as usual, I’m indecisive in what to get. I actually met Kelli of Lovescool and asked her what would she recommend in trying. I was hungry and I’m up for anything really. She ended up recommending me a bunch of things like their Green Tea Red Bean Muffin, a couple of their tea cookies, especially the White Tea Strawberry cookie, and the Roasted Sweet Potato Puff Pastry.
After thinking about it for a few moments, I ended up with the Green Tea Red Bean Muffin, the Chocolate, Coconut, Fig cookie, and their Sweet Potato Puff Pastry; all served along with a pot of Bamboo Mountain tea.
I tried the cookie first since I can’t pass up something that looks like a truffle and it’s actually a cookie. I was thinking, you get the best of both worlds! Anyways, after taking a bite of this cookie this is like a barely baked chocolate truffle. It has a very thin crust on the outside and the innards are filled with chunks of dried figs and large flakes of toasted coconut. It’s very sweet due to the fig and very nutty from the coconut. Tasty but pretty damn sweet. I needed a couple of sips of tea to dilute the sugar.
After getting that sweet start, I went on with the Green Tea Red Bean Muffin. For some reason, I have high expectations with this muffin. I can’t explain why, but I wanted to be swooned by it. Also, I strangely thought there would be red bean paste smothered somewhere in that muffin. I know this is not an Asian bakery but my mind was drifting somewhere with this muffin since I read the sign that says “red bean” and usually my mind translates that to red bean paste. Weird. I probably should have went to bed earlier…
Enough of my weird food ramblings and getting to the actual muffin, I thought the muffin was generally good. It’s not greasy, it has a fine, tender yet structured texture, and just sweet enough that it doesn’t feel like I’m eating a cupcake. My small qualms with this muffin is that it doesn’t taste like there’s enough green tea flavor and the actual red beans (adzuki, technically) didn’t really contribute much either, except that occasional bites of smoothness, not flavor. I like it. I wanted to love it. But alas, I’m not completely taken by the muffin. It has potential but it needs some tinkering, in my opinion.
For the final pastry, I tried, the Roasted Sweet Potato with Puff Pastry. First of all it looks pretty and slightly rustic with the dried “gushing” of the sweet potato coming out of the crack of the puff pastry. The puff pastry itself is very delicate, buttery, and light, sweetened with the sweet, spice sugar glaze that topped it off. The innards are filled with subtly sweetened mashed roasted sweet potatoes, echoing the spices that was in that sugar glaze. Very delicious.
After finishing my meal of sorts, I took a lot of photos of their pastry display cases. Here’s a few of them…
There’s plenty more photos of their sweets, if you want to see more, click here. I’m not going to kill you all with a ton of photos.
Then after classes, I was craving for a cup of hot chocolate, even though it’s nearly 70 degrees Fahrenheit… I walked over to Rockefeller Center to La Maison du Chocolat.
My original intention was to have their cup of hot chocolate and maybe a macaron or two, but after walking from my campus to LMDC, I felt hungry and went a little crazy with ordering more than enough sugar to make a little five year-old jump off the walls. Just take a look below…
Yep, I lost it a bit. I ended up getting a cup of Guayquil hot chocolate, a chesnut mousse chocolate tart, and three small macarons.
It’s been years since I’ve drank La Maison’s hot chocolate. I think the last time I ever had their hot chocolate was at their chocolate tasting classes about two years ago. Anyways, it’s still awesome albeit a pricey cup for $8. This cup of hot chocolate is like drinking a diluted form of 62% ganache. It’s smooth, silky, a bit thick, and oh-so chocolatey. The plop of whipped cream made it extra special.
The chestnut mousse chocolate tart is one sophisticated dessert. It’s not at all sweet. Just mere hints of sweetness from the mousse and the chocolate ganache that fills this tart. The pâte sucrée crust that lines this tart is buttery, crisp, and barely sweet. This rendition of the basic chocolate tart is trying to tie in with the fall season, very a exquisite one at that.
Then I finished off the entire dessert flight with the macarons: coffee, caramel, and chocolate. All were very good and delicious but I still crave for Pierre Herme‘s magnificent macarons. Oh how my soul would weep for joy if I had one again…I need to get my butt to Paris soon! LMDC’s macarons are the best in NYC after that extensive search I went with Robyn earlier this year.
The cookie has a nice, thin, smooth crust with a soft, moist crumb. A good ratio of ganache or filing to cookie, and the filling is not cloyingly sweet. All three had the aforementioned and their fillings were intensely flavored but I want the unique flavor combinations that PH has.
That’s my sugar-filled Saturday. I really need to go my gym and burn the extra sugar and fat ingested…
Amai Tea & Bake House
171 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10003
Maison du Chocolat
30 Rockefeller Plz
New York, NY 10112