Critic's Choice: Three divine chocolate creations

Los Angeles Times

Remember when you couldn't go to a restaurant without coming across yet another flourless chocolate cake? And when that trend finally passed, the chocolate fashion became precious, over-elaborate tastings of this and that. I'm glad that's finally passé. When something is good, you want more than one bite, no?

Over the years, I've loved Sherry Yard's chocolate musings at Spago and Nancy Silverton's thick, gorgeous chocolate pudding. Not to mention Roxana Jullapat's fresh chocolate cherry tart at Cooks County, which I hope she'll be revisiting as soon as cherries come into season later this month. Chocolate is having another moment. Here are three chocolate desserts to try now — one classic, one on its way to that status and the third a brilliant invention.

Yvan Valentin, Artisan Chocolatier

Recently, a friend showed up for dinner with a box of truffles from Yvan Valentin. I didn't recognize the name and hoped they weren't going to be those huge, killingly rich and cloyingly sweet truffles. Instead, these were ineffably light, small as marbles, a barely sweet dark chocolate ganache cloaked in a thin shell of dark chocolate and then rolled in cocoa. Classic and utterly satisfying. Valentin, I found out later, has been around since the early '90s and now has a mail-order business. You want his "old tradition" dark truffles.

3514 W. Jefferson Blvd. (at Crenshaw Boulevard), Los Angeles, (323) 731-1122, Dark truffles, $11.50 for 1/2 pound box.


I once knew a kid so entranced with Bouchon's signature dessert, he'd bake it again and again, running up a huge bill in the finest chocolate and butter. These fat cork-shaped chocolate cakes can have that effect on anyone. (The recipe is in the Bouchon cookbook.) At Bouchon in Beverly Hills, they're featured every night. Don't hesitate. Order them for a hit of chocolate that goes straight to the vein. It's the texture that's so perfect, halfway between a soufflé and a brownie.

235 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 271-9910. Bouchons, $13.50.


Lunch at John Sedlar's unique Latin-inspired restaurant downtown is always an adventure. I rarely have dessert at lunch, but someone else ordered the chocolate cake. I took a bite and got a hit of dark chocolate and chile. Kaboom! Called Xochimilco, it's made with Colombian dark chocolate and dried ancho and pasillo chile powder, served with "guacamole frosting," a mix of avocado, heavy creme and lime juice. Sedlar (with the help of Martin Duron) was inspired to make it after Mexican chef Patricia Quintana took him to Xochimilco in Mexico City to see Frida Kahlo's art. 

1050 S. Flower St., Los Angeles, (213) 749-1460,, Xochimilco, $8.

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