The ‘Cronut’ chef is serving an 8-course dessert, and we’ve never seen anything like it

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Ansel’s sugary interpretation of “first heartbreak.”
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Dominique Ansel rose to celebrity chef status when he invented the Cronut – a doughnut-croissant hybrid. People lined up for hours outside his Manhattan bakery just for the chance to taste one.

Now, the pastry chef is doing something even more ambitious. He recently launched U.P., an eight-course tasting menu. It’s the equivalent of a fancy dinner, except for one big difference: every course is dessert.

Reservations are hard to come by, since Ansel serves the menu to just eight lucky diners at a time, a few times a week, in the test space above Dominique Ansel Kitchen.

But for anyone with a sweet tooth, it’s worth a trip. The menu is currently themed around “firsts,” and includes dishes like “first kiss,” with roasted peanut water and cream soda pearls, and “first heartbreak,” a version of baked Alaska with Valrhona Guanaja bitter almond ice cream and meringue.

The experience is $85 per person, and $45 for the drink pairing. Reservations can be made through the kitchen’s website. Thanks to Dominique Ansel’s chocolate supplier, Valhrona USA, for hosting us at U.P.


Remember the Cronut? People went nuts for the doughnut-croissant hybrid when pastry chef Dominique Ansel invented it in 2013.

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People literally waited hours on line to buy one. Scalpers tried to sell them for $100 a pop.

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Now Chef Ansel is doing something far more ambitious with dessert. He’s serving an 8-course tasting menu to a few lucky diners each week. It’s 100% sweets, and themed around life “firsts.”

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The event, called U.P., takes place in the test space above Ansel’s Dominique Ansel Kitchen in the West Village. It’s a tiny room, so they came up with an ingenious way to turn it into a restaurant.

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The table literally descends from the ceiling with the turn of a crank. Suddenly, the industrial kitchen is a chic dining room.

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One of the coolest parts about U.P.? It’s personalized. A week before I attended, a rep from the restaurant emailed me to ask about my first word. I was confused, but played along — and the word “mama” appeared in meringue form in my first course. The dish was a play on peas and carrots, with sweet pea anglaise and carrot cake.

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A dish inspired by “first kiss” came next. After eating the raspberry and white chocolate decoration…

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…I pretty much had to make out with the bowl in order to get to the sweet beverage and cream quenelle inside. It was about as awkward as a real first kiss.

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Next up: “first time living on your own.” This dish played off the stereotype of the broke, busy college grad.

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There were “ramen noodles” made of crepes, and an “egg” that was really sweet corn cream.

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Needless to say, I cleaned my frying pan.

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“First heartbreak” was the most complex dish of the evening. It took Ansel and fellow chef Noah Carroll six months to perfect.

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That’s because diners actually set the dish on fire themselves… using matches from boxes printed with standard rejection lines.

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A beautiful dish, up in flames.

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The dessert, a play on baked Alaska, contained bitter almond ice cream and chocolate cake. The burned meringue gave it a dark touch.

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“First job” brought with it a pang of anxiety.

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I opened the envelope to find one of my favorite things and one of my least favorite things: chocolate, and a bar chart.

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The bars stood for “sleep,” “taxes,” “beer money,” and “caffeine.” Very witty. And yummy.

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This tiny steak was probably my favorite dish of the night. It symbolized “first fine dining experience,” and looked just like Beef Wellington.

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The pastry-wrapped chocolate mousse with red wine sauce was heavenly.

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Like any fancy tasting menu, U.P. had an intermezzo course.

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This one was an orchid. Filled with lime sorbet.

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“First dance” made use of liquid nitrogen. The chefs dipped strawberry lollipops into the bowl…

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And hand-piped on a mascarpone tutu.

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How elegant.

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How do you end a feast based on “firsts?” No one was sure — including the chefs, apparently. But this shaved lychee ice was a light way to finish.

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It was all delicious. But though I left feeling full, I was not satiated. Dessert for dinner is fun — but I’d wait a long time before I did it again.

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