Not too long ago, New York Magazine named Rickshaw Dumpling Bar's chocolate soup dumplings the 10th best chocolate dessert in New York City. Rickshaw was the only counter-service restaurant on the top-10 list and Kenny Lao, the restaurant's managing partner, was delighted. I'd imagine Anita Lo, who developed the dessert along with all the other food at Rickshaw, was delighted, too, but I didn't ask her.
Kenny's little sister was in town recently and they tried to sample all nine of the other winning chocolate desserts. They managed to hit six of them, but they hadn't had the award-winning chocolate cake of The Spotted Pig.
So he called me and we went there for dinner.
I think The Spotted Pig is the only restaurant with a Michelin star that doesn't take reservations.
I showed up at 7:30 and gave Kenny's name to the guy in charge of the waiting list. He said it would be 30-40 minutes. But Kenny showed up a few minutes later and said "hi" to one of the owners, Ken Friedman, who took us upstairs and seated us.
They chatted briefly about their desserts' recognition, and observed its effect on sales.
"Huge," Ken Friedman said.
Kenny immediately ordered the award-winning chocolate cake, and we also ordered a bunch of other stuff: duck egg with bottarga; sheep's ricotta gnudi with sage and brown butter; fennel-celery salad with lemon, olive oil and bottarga; beer steamed cockles; a burger with Roquefort and shoestring potatoes; beets and greens, and maybe something else.
Kenny had all but one bite of the cake. I had that one bite. And then the two of us did a respectable job on all of that food, which Kenny followed with another piece of chocolate cake (I had a couple bites of that one, too). We didn't finish everything, of course. And some college co-eds at the next table ate our unfinished shoestring potatoes and I think the non-vegetarian ones sampled the burger. They told us we were making a mistake in not ordering the lemon dessert, but they were not aware of our mission.
Kenny's rail-thin, but can eat like, well, I'd say a horse, but horses are vegetarians and Kenny will eat just about anything you put in front of him, except for Mongolian hot-pot, which makes him a joy to eat with.
Next we stopped by Sascha in the meatpacking district, because neither of us had been there. We went to the upstairs bar and I had an Ommegang weisbier while we chatted briefly with chef-owner Sascha Lyon's wife Latoya.
Kenny's going to change the name of his dessert, by the way, to "chocolate Shanghai soup dumplings." The inspiration for the dessert, which actually is sesame-coated mochi filled with hot, oozing butter and chocolate, are the gushing soup dumplings for which the New York restaurant Joe's Shanghai is famous.
Maybe the dumplings come from Shanghai, I don't know. They were available on the campus of Nanjing University when I was a student there, and Nanjing's just a few hours west by Train from Shanghai. In Chinese they're called xiao long bao, or "little dragon dumplings." The bamboo steamers in which the Chinese serve steamed dumplings are called "dragons." I don't know why. The steamers in which xiao long bao are smaller than the ones in which the more bready, fluffy dumplings are served, hence the name.