When owner Ron Chen puts something new on the menu at Rattan Bistro, it's usually worth a trip to his restaurant to try it. Currently, Chen is tempting us with a selection of three new desserts: Thai Sticky Rice, Lemongrass Bread Pudding and Chocolate Pot de Crème.
If you've never had the crème brûée at Rattan, you are missing out -- it's the best version this side of the Seine. (Including the Left Bank.) Given that the regular menu desserts are of such high quality -- the Molten Chocolate Cake is for hardcore chocolate lovers -- these new desserts simply begged to be tasted. And why resist a meal of three desserts, even at two in the afternoon?
While the desserts were being prepared, we snacked on nigiri that was served alongside Rattan's Jungle Roll. Whenever we dine at Rattan, it seems, our soy sauce goes largely unused; the sushi is always just perfect on its own. We tore through the sweet-and-spicy Jungle Rolls (salmon, shrimp, mango, asparagus, cucumber, eel sauce, wasabi aioli) that marched a line through the middle of our plate, and then savored the nigiri. The salmon on the left was rich and buttery, but left room at the end for the seasoned rice and pinpoint of wasabi to pop through; the ocean trout on the right was topped with the tiniest sliver of tart-sweet lemon, and was equally smooth in both flavor and texture. The sushi here is truly excellent.
And then, dessert. Three of them, to be precise.
At Ron's suggestion, we started with the Thai Sticky Rice, then moved on to the Lemongrass Bread Pudding and finished up with the Chocolate Pot de Crème. Each dessert was of a size and richness that begged sharing it, although it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to share after his first bite.
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If lighter desserts are your thing, the Thai Sticky Rice is the way to go. The rice is cooked in coconut water, topped with coconut milk, and then covered in thin, sweet slices of mango; a scoop of coconut pineapple ice cream provides the finishing touch. The coconut milk keeps things from getting too sweet, which is important in dessert -- if the sweetness builds past a certain point, a dessert becomes inedible, but the Thai Sticky Rice was perfect from the first bite to the last.
The Lemongrass Bread Pudding, on the other hand, is as rich and eggy as you could imagine. Croissant is soaked in a bread pudding egg base infused with lemongrass and galangal, and then baked. Coconut milk is cooked sous vide to create a rich dulce de leche that is then drizzled on top of the bread pudding, which is then finished with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. This is quite possibly the most comforting dessert of all time. The egg base is looser than in traditional bread puddings, which makes it feel more "dessert-like" (sometimes bread pudding feels more like breakfast food than dessert), and the coconut milk cooked sous vide gives the whole dish a silky, decadent quality.
Finally, we took up our adorable tiny spoons to dig into the Chocolate Pot de Crème. It's sort of as if a Molton Chocolate Cake and custard had a baby. The chocolate flavor is strong and pronounced -- they make it with vanilla and milk chocolate -- and little bits of toffee are scattered throughout, including shaved atop the whipped cream. If you have never met a Heath bar you didn't like, this dessert is for you. It's the sweetest of the three, as well as the most assertive -- it screams, "I AM MADE OF CHOCOLATE."
The winner that day was the Thai Sticky Rice (also our waiter's favorite), but calling an official champion this early in the game seems unfair. Another three-dessert lunch competition may be in order.