It’s no place for connoisseurs, but Max Brenner, the two-month-old chocolate fantasyland near Union Square, has its sweet and gooey pleasures. The first U.S. branch of an Israeli chain, it’s part big, buzzing restaurant, part store. The store sells chocolate candies, creams, cocoa mixes, toys and more.
There are great desserts in the restaurant part. Early favorites include chocolate fondues, with various dipping items available, including fruit, banana bread, grilled marshmallows, and even vanilla ice cream bars. The triple chocolate cake loaf is wonderful, raves eve, a rich but not overly sweet cake enclosing a molten chocolate center. cocoqueen swoons over the chocolate “pizza,” a disc of dough topped with marshmallows, melted chocolate, and a hazelnut crisp.
Some treats are consumed with the aid of whimsical, Wonka-esque gadgets (for sale in the store, naturally). Hot chocolate gets mixed marks, but most admire the “Hug Mug” it’s served in, designed to fit between cupped hands. Cappuccino comes in a cup attached to a little helter-skelter, holding candies that slowly melt and sink into the drink.
Purists are dismissive. “It’s kind of like chocolate Applebee’s. It’s a fun idea, but if you’re at all discriminating, the product doesn’t live up,” warns Raflab, who describes it as “industrial, supermarket-quality chocolate.” Whatever, say fans. big o suggests setting aside high-end standards and going with the syrupy flow. The Peanut Butter Cup (chocolate truffle cream studded with peanut butter and Oreo cookies, covered in whipped cream, chocolate chunks, and chocolate sauce) is “too heavy, too sweet, too rich–perfect,” he writes. “The subtlety and depth found in the world’s better chocolates (I’m a Cluizel man, myself) was certainly not in evidence. This was a chocolate-handled sugar hammer to the brain–but a nice one.”
There is also a menu of savory foods–crepes, lasagna, quiches, salads, etc–but, really, who cares? Another Max Brenner shop is due to open soon in the East Village.
Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man [Union Square]
841 Broadway, near E. 13th St., Manhattan
Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man [East Village]
to open at … 141 2nd Ave., between E. 9th and 8th Sts., Manhattan
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