Melanie Wong | Jul 10, 200504:53 AM     4

After dinner at Original Joe's, we walked up to Ponzu in the Serrano Hotel at O'Farrell and Taylor to see if we could be seated for dessert only. The hostess said we were welcome to have dessert in the lounge area.

This was my first time here since the new chef, Michelle Mah, took over. I don't know if she makes the desserts herself, but someone is doing a bang up job on sweets in that kitchen. They're priced at $7.50 apiece and we ordered three to share.

Our least favorite was the frozen banana souffle. When the polka-dotted plate was set down, Stephanie said, "someone had a work-out with the squeeze bottle!" Those dots of strawberry sauce were lovely with the sweetness balanced deftly by a clean tanginess. The banana cake bottom and brulee'd banana slices on top were fine, but not the frozen middle. It had great, natural banana flavor, yet I didn't care for the pulpy fibrous texture of the mashed bananas as they melted in the mouth against the bits of nutty nougat. Still, if you're on a high fiber diet, this may be just the ticket.

William's pick was the cognac chocolate truffle torte with caramel-coconut mousseline. Studded with candied macadamia nuts, the slabs of torte were dense and velvety in texture with impressively rich and complex chocolate flavor. The small quenelle of mousseline had a near gamey and cultured cheese-like note. The squiggles of sauce on the rim were deeply chocolate-y too. Even the burnt sugar decoration tasted good and wasn't just for show.

The warm rhubarb tart with lemongrass ice cream and shiso syrup was my personal favorite. The ice cream was so intense and flat out incredible. William tasted it and said, "yep, that sure does taste like lemongrass, not that I actually want to eat any lemongrass ice cream." But Stephanie and I did. With a short, cookie crust and a meringue topper, the rhubarb filling itself was pretty sour, enough that we warned William that he probably wouldn't like it. The sweetly floral shiso syrup, sweetness of the meringue, and the creamy richness of the ice cream smoothed over the tart zinginess, but the first impact was a sour thrill ride courtesy of the kitchen. The texture of the meringue was a bit out of place, however, the sum was greater than the individual parts of this dessert.

My brother-in-law had a little taste of everything, and then sat back to enjoy his Lagavulin neat with a cup of coffee. He's gotten used to the three of us being hypercritical when we get together for a meal. Larry pointed out that despite our criticisms of the frozen banana thing, most of the very generous serving had disappeared. (g)

Ponzu Restaurant
401 Taylor Street
San Francisco 94102
(415) 775-7979

Link: http://chowhound.safeshopper.com/23/c...

Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

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