A dessert cafe is probably the last place you would expect to see an Erlenmeyer flask, but it’s quite apropos at Michael Recchiuti’s Chocolate Lab. Recchiuti has already cemented his place as one of San Francisco’s premier chocolatiers, and he’s decided to go back to his restaurant roots with the opening of Chocolate Lab, a sweet (and savory) cafe located in the Dogpatch, near his commercial kitchen space.
The laboratory theme fits Michael’s curious, inventive nature perfectly – he is constantly experimenting with different sweet ideas and envisioned Chocolate Lab as a place to showcase different concepts. On our last visit there we didn’t have a chance to sample the savory side of the menu, but we made sure we had room for as many of the desserts as possible:
Chocolate Lab’s seasonal dessert offering, this strawberry tartlette is delicately refined and vibrantly flavorful. The crisp tart crust is filled with a velvety vanilla cream and topped with a fine dice of sweet strawberries. I was particularly taken with the accompanying strawberry-tarragon sorbet – fresh and herbal and so summery.
I also fell head over heels for Michael’s modern take on carrot cake. He explained that he loved the classic dessert but wanted to make it without its usual cream cheese frosting. While other carrot cakes drown out the carrot flavor under a cloying wave of sweetness, this version is entirely different. Rich, carrot-y layers of cake layered with milk chocolate mousse and topped with caramelized pecans and candied carrots, served with a surprisingly light butterscotch custard. The combination is satisfyingly decadent but still so light that I could have had seconds. I might have done just that if I hadn’t already ordered three desserts!
Finally, Chocolate Lab’s signature cake is a constant work in progress. Michael envisions the cake changing in composition and components to incorporate new inspirations. In its current incarnation, a devil’s food cake is layered with bittersweet ganache, soaked in a coffee creme anglaise, and topped with a cacao nib foam. This is a serious chocolate – and caffeine – hit.
I wish I’d had room for more; I really wanted to try the signature sundae, which features Michael’s burnt caramel ice cream topped with burnt caramel hazelnuts, almonds, peanut butter pearls, marshmallows, and chocolate sauce (everything made in-house), but the chocolate lab cake did me in, and I’ll have to wait for a return visit to attempt the sundae!
As a long time fan of Michael’s confections, I’m delighted to have another location to see Michael show off more of his pastry background. With his second retail location, Little Nib, located just down the street from Chocolate Lab, Dogpatch is becoming a must-stop for SF sweet lovers.
801 22nd Street
San Francisco, CA 94107