Published on June 20th, 2008 | by Charu Suri1
The Architect of Dessert
Talk to Jansen Chan, Pastry Chef at New York’s Oceana restaurant, and you get the impression he’s an affable guy next door with a charming grin. It’s hard to imagine he’s fashioned one of the most accomplished and diverse dessert menus in the city, and is a former architect who secretly sketches blueprints of his desserts prior to laying them out on the plate.
“I measure everything with a ruler,” he says. “All night long and all day long! My crew is used to it.” Make no mistake, Oceana is well known for its seafood menu. Executive Chef Ben Pollinger is a master of the fruits de la mer offerings. From the Oysters served with American Sturgeon Caviar to the Florida Stone Crab Claws with Watermelon Radish, Apple Chutney, and Pomegranate Glaze, the menu is anything but bland pages torn from “The Joy of Cooking.”
But the dessert menu would even boggle Jacques Torres. Items like the Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding with Oatmeal Stout Beer coupled with Oatmeal ice cream;the Chocolate Custard Brownie (a layered chewy brownie with a soft chocolate pot-de-crème;); the Passion Cheesecake (a light summery cheesecake rolled in a crust of almonds and white chocolate complemented with a bitter chocolate sorbet); the famous Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar –with two versions of a chocolate chip cookie coupled with buttermilk ice cream; to the Strawberry Dessert With Semolina Sorbet, with strawberry gelée and cucumber granité, each dessert item was fit to feed a starving Nicole Richie.
But not everything looks mathematical. The blueberry mochi actually looked like a complete mess, with a cake full of blueberry compote glazed in syrup, and mingled with tapioca pearls cooked in coconut milk and coconut lime sorbet. “It’s a calculated mess,” Jansen says with a grin. “Everything is pretty organic.”
I wish my apartment were that way.
The desserts complimented the sweet and spicy nature of the dinner menu. Pollinger used to work at Tabla for five and a half years. “The menu is a blend of items from my experiences… I’ve worked in Monaco too, and traveled to Spain and Italy. It feels like a cruise ship kind of menu!”
But the famous dinner menu aside, the highlight of my evening were the desserts. I would gladly starve for a week if I knew I was in for a dessert treat from Oceana. It’s a feast that would surely put Willy Wonka out of business.
Oceana, 55 E 54th St
New York, NY 10022
(212) 759-5941; www.oceanarestaurant.com