When HotChocolate reopens this week after two weeks of renovations, it will have skylights, lighter paint on the walls and tables where the lounge used to be. And yet some of the biggest changes will be on the menu.
“We are absolutely getting away from the artistry of cooking, and getting more into the craft of cooking,” Segal says, which seems to mean she’s stripping her menu of pretense. HotChocolate will now traffic more in snacks (deviled duck eggs; cottage fries with spring onion “dip”) as opposed to plated appetizers; will up the focus on sandwiches (lump crab cake with roasted giardiniera tartar) and salads; and will offer simple, seasonal specials as opposed to a list of static entrées (though a steak and a whole-roasted fish likely will always be available). Sides will be à la carte, entrées will be what Segal calls “medium plates,” and the result, Segal hopes, will be much less structured. “It’s going to feel less ‘I’m in a restaurant’ and more…‘I can do so many things here,’ ” she says. The brunch menu will remain largely intact.
Of course, dessert still will be a huge focus of HotChocolate. But Segal is getting away from “artistry” here, too. Her monthly changing dessert menu will include one dessert in each of the following categories: cake, pie, custard and frozen, and they’ll all have an updated but classic feel. (For example, her first cake will be no-frills chocolate with milk chocolate frosting and a shot of frothed milk.) This is not to be confused with the “classics” section of the pastry menu, which will feature Segal’s most famous creations, like her salted chocolate tart. A vintage cart will become the “cookie cart” and wheeled to tables so customers can buy cookies priced by the ounce. Finally, there will be a “study”: an ingredient (say, rhubarb) that Segal and her team will show in iterations, from raw to cooked, all over the restaurant—at the bar in a cocktail, on the menu as a snack and as a dessert.