What a nice surprise to arrive at Bittersweet on a Tuesday night and find a line snaking out the door.
Was everyone, like us, taking advantage of their soon-to-expire dollars-off-dessert deal (from LivingSocial)? Was everyone suddenly in a mindset of “Life is short… Eat dessert first?’’
A full house on a Tuesday night – a slower night in the restaurant business -- speaks volumes about the place. Bittersweet, with its menu of mainly desserts, wine and coffees, plus a short list of savory fare, clearly fills a void in downtown Syracuse.
THE VIBE: Warm, compact and inviting, with cream- and chocolate-colored walls and pink accents. The place is small – maybe six tables for two and four along one wall, and a couple tables for larger parties near the door and toward the back. The bar has tall, comfortable padded stools and room for about a dozen more people looking to satisfy their sweet tooth.
The place was full of women, including a couple tables with groups that looked to be celebrating a birthday and upcoming wedding with sparkling wine, shared platters of cheese and fruit and plenty of chocolate, including fondue and slabs of Death by Chocolate Cake that looked big enough for three people to sink forks into.
LIQUID ASSETS: A few beers by the bottle plus a list of about 40 wines, available by the bottle or glass (two pour sizes, 2 ounce and 4 ounce). Coffee is also available, and the espresso machine was getting a good workout.
THE MENU: More than a dozen desserts, all made by pastry chef Lucia Barbieri, sister of owner Patrizia Barbieri, are available. The temptations include cakes, cream puffs, tiramisu, Belgian waffles dressed with ice cream and chocolate sauce, and classics like sundaes and strawberry shortcake.
DECISIONS, DECISIONS: After much mulling of the wine and dessert menus, we settled on a glass of Montevina white Zinfandel (California) for me (my first choice, a French rose, was not available) and a glass of Acrobat by King Estate Pinot Noir (Oregon) for Robert. I ordered the Whipped and Cream Puffs (something I’m not likely to bake at home) but soon learned they were not available that evening.
Back to the drawing board: Make that Carrot Cake and Creme Brulee.
The carrot cake ($6.50), an over-sized, multi-layer slice topped with cream cheese icing, was moist with a wonderful texture, hinting of cinnamon and nutmeg and flecked with a few nuts. The crème brulee ($7.75) had a nicely browned and crackly sugar top, hiding smooth, rich custard underneath. In case you’ve never had crème brulee, this is a good place to try it. The combination of crackly burnt sugar and creamy custard is one of life’s pleasures.
WHAT’S SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T WANT DESSERT GOING TO FIND? Soups, salads, and sandwiches, plus cheese platters for sharing – not just desserts.
THE DAMAGES: $35 plus change, for two desserts, one beer, three glasses of wine, tax and tip.
WOULD WE GO BACK: Absolutely. We’ll return for the Whipped and Creamed Puffs that weren’t available, or maybe for a shared slice of Strawberry Love, Bittersweet’s version of strawberry shortcake. Fresh local berries will be in season in a few short weeks, after all (hint, hint!).
VITALS: Bittersweet is at 121 W. Fayette St., in downtown Syracuse. The restaurant is open 11:30 a.m. to midnight Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday (closed Sunday). Information: 315-474-9463.