Cacao Connoisseur

For those who believe that chocolate should be a separate food group, this one’s for you. Cathy Danh loosens up her belt and throws caution to the wind in search of HCM City’s very best chocolate desserts. Chocoholics, unite.

In a town full of bean-intensive, coconut milk-laden and tapioca-centric concoctions, dessert often feels more like an adventure than a simple pleasure. The local sweet terrain is tough enough for the average dessert-goer to navigate, but for chocoholics, it can be plain depressing. As part of AsiaLIFE’s firm commitment to providing fellow cacao fiends with something to really sink their teeth into, we threw our scale to the wayside and ignored all doctors’ warnings about the importance of a balanced diet. Here are HCM City’s most satisfyingly chocolaty creations. Get ready to buy new pants.

Chocolate Fountain
Restaurant Nineteen, Caravelle Hotel, 19 Lam Son Square, District 1
The chocolate fondue fountain served at Restaurant Nineteen’s dinner buffet and Sunday brunch is straight out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Hunks of strawberries, pineapple and handmade meringue and marshmallows are speared with wooden skewers, ready to be coated in the free-flowing milk chocolate. It’s easy to stuff yourself silly in this luxurious all-you-can-eat environment. The pillowy marshmallow coated in milk chocolate is nothing short of dreamy.

Chocolate Soufflé
Augustin, 10 Nguyen Thiep Street, District 1
An ideal soufflé is no piece of cake. The road to the perfect soufflé is likely paved with dozens of painful collapses. While the intricacies of this dessert may elude some pastry chefs, it is certainly not the case at Augustin. The edges of the chocolate soufflé (85,000 VND) are gorgeously caramelized, while the insides are silky smooth and unbelievably light and airy. The subtle decadence of a chocolate soufflé is the perfect finish to any meal.

Gourmet French Chocolates
Jeff de Bruges, 11 Dong Du Street, District 1
Fans of bittersweet chocolate are sure to swoon for French chocolatier Jeff De Bruges’ selection of chocolate bars made from 31% to 75% pure cacao of Venezuelan and Peruvian origin. For those who prefer their chocolates adorned, custom made boxes of chocolates are on offer at 140,000 VND for 100 grams. The White Chocolate Biscuitine with gianduja and crisped rice is a lovely marriage between milk and white chocolates, while the Tortue Lait combines milk chocolate with caramelised and salted almonds. The Cornet Dore is a cutesy swirled gianduja chocolate number that’s as tasty as it is adorable.

Vietnamese Handcrafted Chocolates
Boniva Chocolatier, 4-6 Le Loi Street, District 1
Boniva is HCM City’s first local chocolate maker. Ingredients are imported from the U.S. and handcrafted by local Vietnamese in the traditional Belgium style. Boniva specialises in chocolates that seamlessly blend Asian and western flavours, offering over 50 unique varieties. Individual pieces are sold by the gram, with 100 grams priced at 85,000 VND. The orange ganache is a wonderful combination of citrus tang with rich chocolate, while the passion fruit gem is filled with a tart jelly and enrobed dark chocolate. The cinnamon truffle with soft chocolate innards and a deep ground cinnamon coating tastes of pure pleasure.

Hot Chocolate Fig Pudding
Warda, 71/7 Mac Thi Buoi Street, District 1
Fruit and chocolate have always been a winning pairing, and Warda’s Hot Chocolate and Fig Pudding (55,000 VND) puts a Mediterranean twist on this classic combination. The dessert can take up to 20 minutes for the kitchen to prepare, but all good things are worth waiting for. Breaking through the layer of dense chocolate cake to unleash a river of warm fig and chocolate pudding is truly magical. Although it’s common custom for groups of diners to share dessert, you’ll find that this one is just too incredible to split. Be selfish and order one for yourself.

Chocolate Nemesis Cake
Au Parc, 23 Han Thuyen Street, District 1
One part brownie and one part cake, Au Parc’s Chocolate Nemesis Cake (50,000 VND) is a gooey square of chocolaty goodness elegantly dusted in cocoa powder. This bittersweet concoction is only a nemesis if you’re on a diet, otherwise it could very well be your best friend.

Molten Valrhona Chocolate Cake
Qing, 31 Dong Du Street, District 1
Qing’s Molten Valrhona Chocolate Cake (68,000 VND) is an indulgent post-dinner treat. There’s something about cool French vanilla ice cream paired with a fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate cake that elicits squeals all around. The best part of the creation is the molten lava of warm and oozy half-baked goodness that spills out of the flaky cake.

Chocolate Cheesecake
Brodard Bakery, 11 Nguyen Thiep Street, District 1
With just a tinge of cream cheese, this chocolaty cheesecake (25,000 VND per slice) has a wonderfully velvety texture that melts in your mouth. The simple white cake base allows the rich filling to shine brightly. Served perfectly chilled, this cheesecake is a definite crowd pleaser.

Chocolate Fudge Cake
Harvest Baking, 30 Lam Son Street, Tan Binh District
Harvest Baking’s Chocolate Fudge Cake (245,000 VND) is a monster of a treat made of moist bittersweet chocolate cake, tooth-achingly sweet fudge icing and finished with off with delicate chocolate shavings. A cake so reminiscent of home that you’ll swear grandma made it. Measuring over a foot in diameter and nearly half a foot tall, it will likely take a village to polish this chocolaty beast off. Call (5470577) or email Harvest Baking ([email protected]) to place your order.

Chocolate Macaron
Annam Gourmet, 16-18 Hai Ba Trung Street, District 1
A macaron is a traditional French pastry made of egg whites, almond powder, icing sugar and sugar. Annam Gourmet sells a variety of macarons produced by Heistand that are priced at 60,000 VND for 100 grams. The chocolate macaron arrives chilled and has understated hints of amaretto and a delicately crunchy texture that collapses with each bite. We bet you can’t eat just one.

Published in AsiaLIFE Magazine August 2008

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