Note: Tisserie at this address is CLOSED. The other locations have not.
857 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
(212) 463-0847/0850

A guy should always have a working knowledge of good places to get dessert. For dating reasons especially, there is almost no better place to go on a first date than somewhere one can get a good pastry. What girl doesn't love dessert? Never in my life have I met someone who goes "Dessert? Eeew yuk. Let's go somewhere I can get Raisin Bran." Dessert cafes are romantic, indulgent, yummy, sexy, yummy, and romantic. Plus they're cheap. Little's worse than a bad date that was also expensive, and no matter what you paid for that latte and tiramisu, I can promise that it was less than you would have paid for that fettucini alfredo and glass of wine. Plus, it's way cooler than meeting up with someone at Starbucks.

If you live on the Upper West Side, there's a trio of great ones: Cafe Lalo, Edgar's Cafe, and Cafe Mozart. Since Lalo's lines are typically an hour-plus long (thank you, Nora Ephron), it's nice that you can just amble on over to another equally good, albeit less famous, option. If you live on the Upper East Side and can look past the poor service and the worse attitude, the delicious Payard Patisserrie may be for you. And if you're in the East Village with a love of Italian pastries, there's Veniero's. I live nowhere near any of these. But in the last year or so, two spots opened up in areas I frequently frequent. One in Union Square (where I hang out a lot), and one in Forest Hills (where I live).

I decided to try them out. Think of it as dating recon. The first up is the French pastry shop, Tisserie, the Union Square one.

Union Square seems to be a magnet for attractiveness, and waking into Tisserie is no exception. It's almost like the only people they let in to eat dessert here have to have the high metabolism required to suck down a calorie-laden pastry without effect. Tisserie is very modern, with funky chandeliers, weird white-ball chairs, and a cool, wide staircase that spirals up to the second floor. The first floor is where the loooong glass case full of sweet sweet wonderfulness is, tempting you into buying things you deep-down know you shouldn't, and the second floor is where you eat them, guilt be damned.

And man, oh man, does everything look guilty... I mean good. I'm willing to bet that even the things I normally wouldn't like would become something I'd like here. Tisserie has exactly what one would expect. Lots of cakes, tarts, cookies, pies, and espressos. Tisserie also goes beyond that with soups, salads, sandwiches, and on weekends, a brunch menu. There's also pizza. I ordered one a while back that was Thai-inspired with chicken and scallions. It was pretty good, as I'm sure the sandwiches and other lunch items are, but it gives one (me, anyway) this feeling they've perhaps gone a bit overboard. Tisserie isn't where I'd want to go for a wrap or for eggs. It's all about the sweet tooth. That's the part of the dining experience I'd return for and tell others about. If I wanted a fancy sandwich, I'd go to Cosi.

If there's one thing Shrink (the female Rent) likes, it's a good dessert, so I decided to drop by and pick up a few pastries before heading on to the ol' homestead. The first pastry we tried out was the Mixed Fruit Tart. The fruit on display was green apple, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, and a tiny yellow tomato (which we couldn't really figure out). Shrink bit into it, and initially thought it was a strange cherry gone horribly bad. Aside from that, this is what a tart should be. The custard was butter smooth and I'm pretty sure it melted once it hit my tongue. Meanwhile the crust was sweet and almost as smooth. Wow, that was good.

Then we tried the Frasier Cake, a rectangular strawberry shortcake-like layered confection. The top is a bright red layer of gelatinous strawberry syrup. Under this are layers that alternate between cream and cake with one large layer of sliced strawberries. Shrink does not like strawberry and never has (don't ask me how such a thing is possible). She avoid strawberries and anything even remotely strawberry-ish. But even she ate the whole slice and liked it. That says a lot, believe me.

Finally, we went for the Sacher Cake, a bittersweet chocolate layer cake with a hint of orange and with a big square of chocolate artfully placed on top. Actually, all of the desserts are artfully made. The fruit on the fruit tart, while delicious, were probably chosen in part because of the variety of their colors. Underneath the red syrup atop the Frasier cake was an edible decal design. But back to the Sacher cake. It's smooth but also very rich. So if you aren't into dark, rich chocolate that's dense and not sugary, you might want to pick something else. This is not a typical chocolate cake with frosting made in a big steel bowl. Shrink thought the Sacher was the best of the bunch. I've never been a big chocolate person, and while I liked it a lot, I'd probably say the tart was my favorite, minus the tomato.

But not everything's heavenly. To start with, Tisserie is far from cheap. Each slice we tested cost $5.50. Service can be kind of slow due to the crowds, and it gets slower when you order an espresso. The seating is upstairs, so you can't really see if there's even a table to sit at. Since the seating area is small, you aren't very likely to get a table. At Tisserie, you seat yourself. So there isn't anyone to ask if there's a table available before you order to eat in and get your food and drink on a porcelain plate and in a mug. It ruins the mood when you want to eat in the air-conditioning, out of the scorching heat, and wind up having to stand waiting by the garbage can for ten minutes.

Still, none of this will be enough for me to keep from going back. The desserts are awesome and it's all the better when I luck out and get a chair upstairs. Worst comes to worst, I'll eat in Union Square Park. Or maybe I'll just stand by the garbage can.

UPDATE: 03/09/08:
I returned with Bro today to Tisserie for a little post-lunch sweetness. The place was standing room only, so we were forced to get our desserts to go. Kind of a let-down, but short of kicking the Dutch exchange student-slash-model down the stairs to beat her to the last remaining table, or eat standing up (which at least two other people were doing), we were out of luck. I ordered the Ipanema Cake, a layering of mousses on what's basically a ladyfinger base. It was as smooth as a cloud, and not over the top sweet. Delicious. You can't go wrong unless you don't like chocolate. Bro picked the Mango Mousse with Passion Fruit Coullis. He liked this more than the ipanema cake, but I preferred my choice. I liked that it was sour, but it was too sweet for me. Though it claims to be mango, it really tasted more like tangerine lemon.

UPDATE: 01/18/09:
Tisserie here on Union Square is CLOSED. They have an outlet at the DKNY store in SoHo... meh... And they've decided to go bistro in a hotel uptown. I guess I'll have to check it out.

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