Bob McPhail 6:31 a.m., May 19
Several weeks ago I wrote about the pending opening of d Bar Desserts, the new pastry shop/casual bistro located on Fifth Avenue in Hillcrest. I’ve lurked in the neighborhood frequently ever since, checking on its progress.
Last Thursday, the doors opened to diners for the first time. It’s difficult to review a brand new restaurant; I don’t want to ding a place before it has a chance to settle in. I managed to wait until Sunday.
Gerhard, who began his culinary career in San Diego, has an impressive background as a pastry chef, working with Jacquy Pfeiffer, founder of the French Pastry School in Chicago, as well as stints at Charlie Trotters Restaurant, the Waldorf-Astoria, the Ritz Carlton, Dean and Deluca, the Four Seasons and Wynn Las Vegas. He is a regular presence on the Food Network and has been featured on Discovery Channel’s Great Chefs of America.
Bailey’s resume includes winning the Ann Criswell scholarship to attend the Art Institute of Houston and holding positions at Lilette in New Orleans, the Four Seasons and Corsa at Wynn Las Vegas.
The restaurant is casually chic, light pours in through the skylights, shiny white tiles, chairs, and counters blend nicely with warm mustard yellow and sage green walls topped by chocolate brown overhead panels. Redwood beamed ceilings add a natural touch.
On one side of the dining area is a cozy wine/beer/cocktail bar, a sleek dessert bar occupies the nearly the full length of the other side. Sitting there, you can watch the as chefs prepare the specialties of the house, the pastries and sweets.
One unique option is on site Natura triple filtered water, sparkling or still, at $1 per person for a bottomless bottle. It’s a nice, eco-friendly touch.
I started with a Bloody Mary ($8), made with house-made mix. It was good and potent, pleasantly lemony, without that thick, tomato saucy consistency or a buffet of superfluous garnishes.
John chose Allegro Costa Rican French press coffee ($3), which came with a small hourglass timer and served a full two cups. It was rich and strong.
My entrée choice was the Southern Fried Belgian ($11), a chicken and waffle sandwich that comes with a side of sweet potato fries. I asked for garlic parmesan fries as a sub. I’ve just never gotten into sweet potato fries, although they are popular.
Yum. The cheesy, herb flecked waffle was cooked to a deep golden brown at the edges, just the way I like it. Inside was a buttermilk soaked, lightly coated chicken breast, also perfectly dark brown, crisp outside and very juicy inside. Rounding it out were slices of ripe tomato, crunchy lettuce leaves and a tangy-sweet honey mustard sauce. The fries delivered as well, thin, crispy and just right salty. The portion was huge – I gave half of it to John and was still stuffed.
John went with the Kobe sliders ($11), two plump burgers topped with “drunken” sautéed onions, white cheddar, aioli, served on soft, pillowy brioche buns with a side of fries. Although they were cooked enough so that no pink was visible, they were still juicy, beefy and well seasoned. The sharp cheddar and savory onions added just the right touch.
My only quibble, and it’s a tiny one, is that this particular dish was appetizer sized, even the fries were a smaller portion than my sandwich had, but it’s listed near the bottom of the menu, between the hearty sandwiches and steak and frites. I could be wrong, but I usually expect the appetizers and small plates to be at the top, somewhere near the salads. As I said, it’s nitpicking, but a bit of clarification would help to avoid potential diner disappointment.
Nevertheless, d Bar Desserts delivers. The ingredients are high quality, and the prices are reasonable for such carefully prepared, delicious food.
The only real disappointment was that I was too full to try any of the desserts, which are the stars of the show. A return trip is planned, stay tuned.
d Bar Desserts is located at 3930 5th Avenue in Hillcrest. Hours are 11:00 am - 10:00 pm Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday and till midnight on Friday and Saturday. They are closed on Mondays.