I have absolutely no sweet tooth, with the possible exception of once-yearly trips to a Mister Softee truck for soft serve that my mostly-lactose-intolerant body regrets later. I'm also not particularly big on chocolate, at least not in that weirdly gendered way in which women are supposed to really love chocolate and gorge on it when they're depressed or happy or just breathing. I can appreciate chocolate in the same way I can appreciate a good oyster: I'm rarely craving it, but I know when I'm eating quality goods. (And no, neither food product seems to be the aphrodisiac for me that everyone waxes so poetically about. And no, that's not some kind of open invitation to suggest new aphrodisiacs for me.)
I was pretty skeptical, then, when after a late meal and drinks over in alphabet city, JK detoured me in the direction of the recently-opened Cocoa Bar on Clinton Street. For one thing, it was completely empty. And well, it was the l.e.s. outpost of the Cocoa Bar in Park Slope, which made me (and, I've discovered, many others) nervous on so many levels: Would it be earnest and try to get me to have hot chocolate on a warm, late-spring evening? Would it play the cringeworthy alternaclassics from the mid-90s? And, given that it was the little sister of the Brooklyn Cocoa Bar that I had once gone to and was completely underwhelmed by, would I be filled with memories of a neighborhood I'd been trying very hard to forget?
The answers to those questions: mostly no -- which is mostly a good thing. I guess that its lower east side location compels this particular Cocoa Bar to emphasize its bar-ness. While the Brooklyn shop seems to revel in its wellworn-ness (and I don't use wellworn here in a very complimentary way), making little effort to appear, well, nice -- the new outpost seemed sort of ... polished. Adult. Not really for the stroller set. To be sure, it was 11 in the evening. I was a little buzzed; I may have been seeing things I wanted to see. But if I didn't know it was Cocoa Bar, I never would have guessed it. What's more, the chocolate selection seemed much more refined and focused than the haphazard, anything-goes, mostly non-dark-chocolate (dis)array that one finds in the Brooklyn locale. And weirdly inconspicuous, despite being displayed prominently in a case on one end of the bar. I mean, the place really did almost seem like a bar. I feel like there may have been britpop-esque sorts of stuff on the soundsystem. And so I have to admit ... I was pleasantly unnerved.
The little sweets display is filled with truffle-sized pieces of dark chocolate filled with various things -- raspberry, peanut butter & jelly, and so on. I honestly have no recollection what JK picked -- I think it may have had some Mexican chile flavors. Or it may have been caramel. (Again, this had been a long night for me.) But the truffle looked -- and apparently tasted -- amazing.Me, I opted for one of the little disks of dark chocolate, lined up in the display according to their chocolate content. Feeling either drunk, or bold, or possibly just brash, I picked the 100% dark chocolate disk, which caused the bartender to raise his eyebrow. "Why don't I give you a 56% one, too? Just so you can taste the difference." And then, with our chocolates placed in fancy little plates, he poured us a wee glass of sherry. Just for the hell of it.
Man, that was good. I mean, the 100% dark chocolate -- yeah, don't do it. Bitter, almost like baking chocolate. The 56% was spectacular. JK's truffle was superb. The sherry -- wow. I never knew that you could pair sherry and chocolate and make me that happy. The total bill? $3.48.
I mean, if I'm going to seek out good chocolate in the city, I'll probably return time and again to Vosges down in Soho; I think that the folks there are all about the business of making chocolate. But if it's late(r), and I'm already back in my neighborhood, and I'm with sweet-teethed company ... I mean, I'd probably try to convince them to go to an actual bar. Cocoa Bar isn't the sort of place I'd linger at for a couple of rounds or anything -- but I'd consider stopping in there for a nibble of dark chocolate on my way over to one of my old standbys.