Update: 11/2014: theLab Café is now theLab, a special events venue. Update 3/2014: Chocolate Lab renamed theLab Café. Update 2020: theLab and the adjacent Little Nib store are closed.
If you haven’t already been to Recchiuti’s Chocolate Lab in SF’s Dogpatch neighborhood, go, Go, GO! But take a friend or 2: You will want to share desserts because it’s hard to choose just one.
It’s also a super-cute space with a dog and science theme (dog art by Andrew Li on the walls, water served in chemistry flasks). Some of us CBTB chocolateers visited the Lab recently, and it made for a relaxing, fun meal.
The menu includes both sweet and savory selections, and the Lab is open for lunch and dinner. We started with a selection of tartines (the new open-face sandwich) and a goat-cheese souffle. My tartine was the day’s special: anchovies, caramelized onions, kalamata olives and parmesan cheese on a long slice of toast. Very tasty, although salty (which was to be expected with that list of ingredients).
Recchiuti = chocolate
If you come for a meal, you won’t be disappointed. Everything we had was delicious, but with our hunger sated, we moved on to the real reason we came to the Lab: chocolate desserts! We each ordered dessert, so we could sample a range of Michael Recchiuti’s chocolate creations beyond what we know from his Ferry Building store. (This was our only misstep. Next time, we’ll order one less dessert than people at the table. If we should want more, we can always stop by Little Nib next door and get some chocolates to go.)
Dangerously chocolate-y Chocolate Lab Cake
This serious chocolate cake starts with devil’s food cake, layered with bittersweet ganache, topped with chocolate-infused foam and caramelized cacao nibs, wrapped in a semisweet chocolate wrap, atop a puddle of coffee-flavored sauce. Whew!
The cake and ganache combo reminded us of the texture of flourless chocolate cake. And all that great Recchiuti chocolate made one of our party exclaim, “I would kill someone for that cake!”
Luckily for everybody, that one cake was enough to satisfy us all. But we still had 3 more desserts to try.
A lighter option: Dark Milk Chocolate Tartlette with Hot Chocolate
This is a fun dessert with a little pastry cup filled with a dark milk chocolate pudding and topped with chocolate curls and mini malted balls. It included a mini cup of hot dark-milk chocolate. The hot chocolate was thinner than sipping chocolate, but more chocolate-y than hot cocoa. This might be the dessert to steer kids to: plenty of chocolate, but lighter than the Chocolate Lab Cake.
This bittersweet chocolate pudding-like custard would seem fairly straightforward were it not topped with jasmine tea-infused foam. The foam smells of jasmine before you taste it, and the texture is like the foam on a cappuccino. Along with the toasted hazelnut sprinkles, it moved the custard beyond a simple pudding.
The mysteries of Asphalt Jungle Revolution
This combo of chocolate-covered nuts, dried fruit and malted milk balls had us guessing with each piece just what we were eating. We figured out the almonds vs. hazelnuts pretty quickly, and the malted milk balls were easy too. But the fruit? We thought some kind of cherry/blueberry and maybe raisin? Turns out there are 2 kinds of cherries in the mix: candied Amarena cherries from Italy and tart Montmorency cherries from Michigan. They were so good, I had to buy a box from the Little Nib store next door.
Take the experience home with you
While we couldn’t take the cozy space home with its ridiculously cute dog art, we did end up with some chocolate to enjoy later. Little Nib carries a limited array of Recchiuti chocolates including Asphalt Jungle Revolution and the cherries by themselves (Cherries Two Ways).
Give yourself a treat sometime soon and share it with a friend — take yourselves down to the Chocolate Lab for an enjoyable meal with a chocolate finish.
Chocolate Lab is located at the corner of 22nd and Tennessee Sts., easily accessible by Muni’s T line or the 48 bus (24th St.).