Dominique Ansel not serving Cronuts is like Mick Jagger not singing “Satisfaction”—you risk losing the crowd if you don’t deliver the hits. But with a back catalog as extensive and worthy as Ansel’s, it wasn’t all that earth-quaking when the pastry icon announced he would be favoring deep-cut desserts over that croissant-doughnut phenom at Dominique Ansel Kitchen, the sophomoric effort to his hysteria-inducing bakery in Soho.
The counter-service West Village follow-up is more spacious than the pint-size original, with a wooden pyramid of stadium seating in a corner, a large retail counter overlooking the kitchen and a handful of bloom-potted benches outside. But there are no iPhone-primed lines to be found here—that’s because the work Ansel’s doing is more quietly radical than the hammy Wonka–fied hybrids on the lips of every tourist.
Cookie-milk shots and frozen s’mores have been traded for nipped-and-tucked classics, most of which are made to order, like velvety chocolate mousse folded à la minute ($6.50). Upon first bite, the fresh-from-the-fryer mini matcha beignets ($5.50 for six) are a touch too bitter—that is, until you pop one whole in your mouth, where that musky green-tea dusting acts as a gorgeously savory counterpoint to warm, zeppole-like dough.
Ansel improves upon his own superlative kouign-amann, lacing the buttery, crusty beaut with brown sugar for a deep, molasses-like sweetness ($5.25), but it’s new creations like the spectacularly fudgy sage-smoked brownie ($4) and the EGG-clipse ($7.50)—a head-spinning blitz of squid-ink brioche, garlicky mashed potatoes, confit egg yolks and a blizzard of Parmesan—that make the Kitchen as much a destination as the bakery.
There are moments when Ansel’s loftiness creeps up and richness overwhelms—see the dictionary-thick extra-fluff mille-feuille ($7.75) or the towering avocado-edamame toast that would look more at home at a Super Bowl spread ($8.50). Excellence prevails, however, and though wayward Cronut seekers may be disappointed not to find what they came for, they should stay for nearly everything else.