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FOOD REVIEW

A Different Kind of Bar

Le MÉridien’s ‘Chocolate Bar’ Tantalizes

By Amy Lee

The Chocolate Bar

Saturdays, 12:00 - 3:00 p.m., until the end of May

Le MÉridien Hotel

Adults: $23.00

Children 5-12: $12.00

Children 4 and under: Free

Willy Wonka and his creepy Oompa- Loompas can move over, because Boston has a much tastier version of a chocolate factory.

The all-you-can-eat Chocolate Bar buffet at the Boston Le MÉridien Hotel, held every Saturday from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. in their Cafe Fleuri, provides over 25 different indulgent desserts to satisfy even the most severe sweet tooth. The desserts, all of which contain chocolate in some form, attract anywhere from 300 to 500 people each weekend.

I went into the Chocolate Bar a bit skeptically, thinking that even though chocolate is the elixir of life, there was no way such an overhaul of sugary sinfulness could be worth a week of spartan grocery money. However, after entering the restaurant and gazing at the six tables covered with various beautifully presented cakes, tarts, mousses, eclairs, cookies, and more, I changed my mind.

The restaurant was arranged so that two connected tables were filled with various cheesecakes, tarts, cakes, and pies, while one table each was dedicated to breads, cookies, heated chocolate items, and a crÊpe station.

I started off with the cake-dessert table, filling my plate with small portions of unusual items like white chocolate crÈme BrulÉe and a piece of sugared lemon peel-topped “Douce Fusion,” a Lemon bavarian cake with scented chocolate ganache. Among other chocolate creations, there was also a New York style marble cheesecake, a “Diplomate” tart covered with berries, kiwi, and pineapple, powdered cocoa-covered truffles, and miniature praline and milk chocolate paris brests.

The bread table was less tantalizing, but that was unfairly the fault of being scrutinized after my stomach-led vision had already investigated about a dozen chocolate cakes. Next to a toaster were small bowls of cream, jam, and melted chocolate, to put on the distinctive chocolate-takes of normal bread fare. Placed on the table were chocolate chunk scones and chocolate peanut butter sandwiches, along with slices of chocolate brioche loaf, chocolate banana bread, spicy pumpkin white chocolate bread, and apricot chocolate bread.

The heated chocolate table had a two-tier stand in the middle, filled with white chocolate eclairs and milk chocolate-dipped strawberries. Around the stand were three metal vessels, filled with Mexican chocolate soup, molten chocolate, and chocolate bread pudding.

That table is definitely for the extreme chocoholics. The vat labeled Mexican chocolate soup turned out to be filled with melted dark-as-midnight pure chocolate, while a quick glance at the chocolate bread pudding revealed what looked like flaky pastries saturated with rich chocolate.

For obvious familiarity reasons, the cookie station didn’t get very much business, even though the large gooey dark chocolate cookies and thick nutty white chocolate cookies looked tempting.

The crÊpe station, on the other hand, was highly popular. The chefs make the chocolate crÊpe in front of you as you choose what items you would like folded inside. Some of the choices include M&Ms, white chocolate, mixed berries, strawberries, bananas, grated nuts, and velvety whipped cream.

Almost everything fulfilled my idea of a chocolate paradise, with one of the biggest surprises being the strange looking chocolate bread pudding, made of croissants. The slightly bitter chocolate is peculiarly well balanced by the almost creamy texture of the buttery croissant.

The best things, however, were the desserts which incorporated fruits. It’s still really pricey to buy any of the summer fruits (especially strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries) right now, so being able to delight in a combination of chocolate and berries was gratifying.

One of my favorites was a slice of a rhubarb tart, dipped on the sides with white chocolate, and beautifully finished with a strawberry placed on top. I’d never had rhubarb before, so I was interested to see how it would taste.

The white chocolate on the sides doesn’t really complement the tart, and it flaked off when I tried to cut the tart into bites, so it is easy to ignore. The tart itself, however, is delicious, with the tender rhubarb coinciding nicely with the harder pastry crust. The rosy strawberry was covered in white chocolate and then drizzled with dark chocolate, providing a deliciously sweet tartness to finish everything off.

The crÊpe station was also definitely a winner. The crÊpe is strangely fluffy in texture, but the slightly bitter chocolate worked well with the lightly sweetened cream and tangy berries that I chose.

On the other hand, some of the desserts were either overwhelmingly rich or strangely bland. The chocolate peanut butter sandwiches, which look like small brown buns, are waiter-please-refill-my-cup-three-times dry, and aren’t as good as a free trick-or-treat Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

The dark chocolate pizza, decked with blueberries and raspberries, is also far from gratifying, since the pizza portion has both a strange potato-bread texture and a flat taste. The Cocoa passion duo GelÉe looked tempting in all its chocolate glory, but doesn’t have a distinguishing taste to match its excessive richness.

All the same, with so many delectable choices, the Chocolate Bar provides enough desserts to pamper anyone’s stomach.

Bottom Line: Although it’s not yet the chocolate Shangri-la, the Chocolate Bar is worth the splurge in both calories and money, and is a lot more appealing than both the smell of Necco and the taste of a Scrumdidilyumptious bar put together.