D Bar Desserts is not, frankly, my kind of place. Having a taste neither for sweets nor for the generally girlie aesthetic of specialists thereof—as exemplified here by baby-blue walls that match the frosting of the signature cupcake—
I just never bothered to put this Uptown favorite anywhere near the top of my list, Keegan Gerhard or no Keegan Gerhard.
My chocolate-crazed pal Beth, however, feels otherwise. And on the eve of her departure for a 12-month tour of as many US cities, a girl gets what a girl wants. As for me, I got far more out of the bargain than I ever dreamed.
Including my pick for Dish of the Week. Unlike Crave’s notorious Luther Burger, D Bar’s take on the doughnut sandwich is startlingly savory right down to the unsweetened yeast dough of the bomboloni (Italian-style doughnuts)—no glaze here. Instead they’re stuffed with beef tartare, topped with tomatillo jam & a serrano-chile sliver, & set atop a schmear of ultra-garlicky “decret sauce,” much like Lebanese toum. (Whether “decret” sauce is a portmanteau of “D Bar” & “secret sauce” or just a typo, seeing as how “D” is next to “S” on the keyboard, is hard to figure. Cutesy names are a hallmark of the menu for better or worse; in the case of the apricot créme brulèe someone saw fit to call “crapricot,” I’d have to say worse.) Execution lacked a little; the pastry was too dry, the tartare underseasoned & therefore unable to stand up to the pungent sauces. But the concept tickled me enough to warrant the nod.
The pizza salad sandwich, however, knocked me out. D Bar makes, of all things, a mean salad, crisp & slicked with strong vinaigrette. It makes a pizza dough like a pastry shop (as opposed to a pie parlor) should—tender & buttery—as well as excellent, unctuous yet tangy pesto. And it doesn’t skimp on the nicely textured cheese, both gooey mozzarella & crumbled goat.
An equally good mix of four cheeses, plus meaty, spiced pepperoni & cherry tomatoes that were warm but still uncooked enough to pop, meant that Beth practically couldn’t get a bite of her own pizza in edgewise. (Sorry about that, B, sorta.)
Said mean salad—sprinkled with toasted pinenuts & shaved parmesan & flanked with lusciously, perfectly ripe sliced avocado—is a keeper as well.
I didn’t try Mo’s mac & cheese, but the fact that it comes gratinéed with panko crumbs &, right on, Cheese Nips, bodes well (maybe she’ll weigh in). I did try the lobster tempura (offered as a supplemental special), & though the breading was thick enough that aragosta fritta might have been a more accurate moniker, it wasn’t too heavy—a judicious combo of salty crunch & sea-sweet flesh.
Rebecca’s steak frites was lovely too, not least for the fact that the beef topped the fries rather than sitting beneath or next to them (as is more common). So all those umami juices mingled with the shreds of parmesan to soak the spud sticks in a way that caused joyous flashbacks to Chilean chorrillana.
Finally, yeah. I may not actively crave dessert, but that doesn’t mean I don’t rise to the freaking occasion. My chocolate-cheesecake brownie, topped with a quenelle of pure chocolate, was dense & intense & the very stuff of teen romance novels. To this day I remember the description of a kiss in one I read when I was 12, before I’d had a real kiss of my own, so it stuck: “like chocolate, slow & warm & sweet & good.”
As for Rebecca’s signature cake & shake,
Beth’s special—wherein bananas Foster collided with French toast—
& Mo’s chocolate-caramel tart with caramel ice cream & Godiva affogato—
they were all, needless to say, comme il faut, so far as my overwhelmed palate could tell. Same goes for that moist cupcake—neither the génoise nor the buttercream sugary but just sweet enough—which I snarfed the second I got home. Damn you, D Bar! You’ll give me a sweet tooth yet.
P.S. Did I mention the terrific selection of wines by the glass, including this kickass, earthy Pinot Meunier? Consider it mentioned.