10 Great Desserts in OC and Long Beach
You know the feeling: when they come around after you've demolished your meal, asking if you have room for dessert. You want something sweet to round off the night, but the dessert menu is the same tired list of cheesecakes and molten lava cakes that aren't even made there. So you lie, tell the waiter you're too stuffed, pay your bill and proceed to the nearest Rite-Aid for an ice cream cone.
If you went to any of the places on this list, there would be no need to do that. This is a list of great restaurant desserts. Some are from establishments that employ actual pastry chefs, while others, well, not so much. But they all have something in common: these are sweets that are as delicious as the main entrees, and are worth ordering on their own if you're inclined. Sharing, by the way, is overrated.
1. "Heaven" at Papa Hassan's
We're pretty sure this isn't the only dessert out there someone has decided to call "Heaven." When you see a dish called such anywhere other than Papa Hassan's Grill, it's because of a lack of imagination; but when you have it at this Little Arabia classic, it's because no other description is worthy. For the record, the proper name for it is aish al saraya, a chilled bread pudding-cum-custard, dripping with a subtle sweetness from honey, topped with fluffs of cream and dusted with crushed pistachios. It's airy, soft, white and good--just like, um, heaven.
2. Croissant Bread Pudding at Cafe Hiro
There was a time when Cafe Hiro chef/owner Hiro Ohiwa only offered his croissant bread pudding during the holiday season or whenever he felt like it. These days he seems to understand that his customers love this dessert more than the others he actually has on the permanent menu. If you order one dessert at Cafe Hiro--heck, if you order anything at Cafe Hiro--let it be this. In the rectangular serving of warmed bread pudding made from ultra-buttery croissants, he's embedded dark chocolate chips, which melt, and cuts into the eggy sweetness of the custard. By itself it's already a genius stroke of the dessert arts, but then he goes further: Ohiwa lays it down on a puddle of house-made caramel sauce, which has just the slightest bit of bitterness that's almost coffee-like. It's just enough to ground the whole thing and make you realize sharing this dessert with even one other person was a bad idea--everyone needs to order their own.
3. Bananas Foster Nuggets at Back Bay Bistro
A martini glass is used for the best thing Back Bay Bistro does: the Bananas Foster Nuggets. You will never have anything involving bananas that will impress more than this dessert. Encrusted in a fried shell, it will remind you simultaneously of donut holes and apple fritters. Each bite led to the warm, sweet and mushy insides of fruit. Over the three golden-brown morsels and the vanilla-bean-ice-cream base, banana puree and caramel was drizzled. It was more of a treat than the panoramic views of Newport's Back Bay or any of the actual main courses served.