If you have ever been to France, then you know the glories of the country’s cuisine, especially its desserts. The nation is famous for its pastries and viennoiseries, in particular its plated desserts, and anyone who vacations there will likely return home a few pounds heavier. Now, France has come to America, with the opening of Sweet Rehab, one of New York’s most popular French patisseries. Located in SoHo, the dessert bar is the center of the neighborhood’s eating scene thanks to the culinary gifts of its founder, Executive Chef David Zaquine. They have brought a high-end French dessert dining experience, where customers can watch as their orders are made “a la minute” in an open kitchen. We were curious about Sweet Rehab and wanted to try some of their famously renowned desserts, so we popped in to see what all the fuss was about. We were not disappointed, but we did hit the treadmill afterwards.
Chef David and Operations Director, Anne Hirsch were impeccable hosts, showing us around the small, stylish decorated dessert bar. As you would expect, the smell of truffles, chocolate, fruit, and pastries was everywhere.
“That’s the first thing our customers notice,” he laughed. “We are always baking something, so you can’t get away from the smell of freshly baked puff pastry and tarts. Not that you would want to, of course!”
Interior dining area at Sweet Rehab. Credit: Nicole Franzen
The stylistic layout of Sweet Rehab, Chef David explains, was inspired by the Parisian restaurant scene; consider bold color palettes and unique patterns in contemporary architecture. “We have antique lights, brass fixtures, and little round marble tables that are perfect for intimate conversations,” he said. “We even designed our bathroom and terrace with the same vibrantly colored exotic wallpaper featured in the dining area. That’s one thing I love about Sweet Rehab: as soon as you step in, you are in a different culture.”
The Sweet Rehab experience, he continued, begins with the menu. “Because we have so much to offer our customers that they may not have tried before, we start with a freshly made sample.” They then explain their concept and describe each item on the menu, offering suggestions on what is best to consume at the location and what is best for take away. “We try to create a welcoming environment in which customers can feel confident in selecting the pastry that they will enjoy the most,” Anne explains.The dessert choices at Sweet Rehab are sumptuous; they offer a variety of tarts, including their best sellers: “Le Miel” – a combination of honey comb, orange blossom and pistachio, and the “Lemon & Yuzu Tart” which pairs beautifully with crunchy French meringues, and a mojito flavored jam. For chocolate fanatics, the “Chocolate Explosion” is a must – this multi-textured chocolate cake is made of a crunchy chocolate brownie base, 70% chocolate cream from Valrhona, and a silky salted dark chocolate ganache, topped with a mix of caramelized nuts, and sea salt. We tasted all three and were blown away by the multitude of textures in each bite.
“Chocolate Explosion”. Credit: Evan Sung
Sweet Rehab caters to all-size parties; they offer options for parties of 2-3, including different flavored mille feuilles, and cake jars (deconstructed versions of their tarts). Additionally, they make all of their desserts in different sizes, from 1 bit to servings for 15, and more. The fruity desserts change seasonally, which means there is always something new to discover at this patisserie.
The bakery also offers classic French morning treats including brioche feuilletée, croissants, financiers, and honey madeleines. “We try to add a different flavored and shaped viennoiserie each weekend, for instance, last week we did a chocolate praline hazelnut brioche and this week, we plan to do a lime passion fruit baba,” Executive Baker Chef Antoine Bernard said sitting down with us at a little table. “We have everything you could find in a traditional French bakery right here in New York.”
One of Sweet Rehab’s most popular and authentic creations are their caviar and truffle madeleines. The salty caviar butter-infused madeleines are topped with Petrossian Daurenki caviar and served with a light, sugar-free lime mascarpone chantilly cream. The truffle madeleines are similarly delicious; they are imbued with French truffle butter and topped with freshly grated black and white Perigord truffle, salted honey, and sea salt.
As the Chefs get to work, making each dessert from scratch, customers can drink Mariage Frères tea, the most established, luxurious brand of French tea. “It’s served in all five-star hotels and palaces in France and is the official tea served at L’Élysée,” Chef David explained. “We have become famous for carrying this tea because it is nearly impossible to find in the U.S.”
Earlier this month, Sweet Rehab started offering luxury champagne brands including Cristal, Dom Perignon and Ruinart, in addition to a wide selection of French rose, white and red wine. “We wanted to offer champagne and wine to our customers because as a French Chef, I strongly believe that gastronomic perfection is achieved when it is paired with the correct wine or champagne,” David explains. “Also, we will soon be launching a brunch menu on the weekends, and bubbles will fit right in with this.”
Sweet Rehab has become so popular in only a few years, and they have begun to expand. The company has recently introduced their special cookie line, which offers fifteen flavors. “There will be something for everyone,” he said, “whether they want gluten-free, dairy-free, chocolate chip, or white pistachio. We’re even going to sell frozen cookie dough packs, so you’ll be able to bake them at home. Can you imagine your kitchen smelling like this every day? Trust me, we’ve got your cravings for cookies covered.”
Chef David also revealed that they are planning to start scouting for a second location in Soho, where they will open their second concept revolving around gourmet sandwiches. “This concept is an important one to me because I believe bread chefs have always been in the shadow of pastry and kitchen chefs and their industry is undervalued,” chef David explains. “This will be a challenging concept to realize as we will make sandwiches using Michelin-star standards. “I hope this will exemplify that “la boulangerie” can be as upscale and luxurious as “la patisserie,” chef David states. It looks like the expansion has already begun as the company recently welcomed Parisian Bread Chef Nelson Decruyenaere, who has trained in bread, but “bread made the French way,” David says with a smile.
Executive Chef David has over fifteen years of experience in some of the most highly respected restaurants and establishments in France and New York, including the Plaza Athénéé in Paris, Le Cinq at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, and Bagatelle in New York.
“Working in these places was incredibly exciting,” David remembered. “I, however, have always wanted to be an entrepreneur and have dreamed of becoming a group. I planned every single detail of Sweet Rehab for 5 years. New York is full of people who enjoy French food, so opening my first store here was a natural fit.”
Chef David and Anne Hirsch can be found at Sweet Rehab until midnight most nights, helping with orders for dine-in, take-out, and delivery. “It is a hectic schedule,” David conceded, but he is having the time of his life.
“Everytime the door opens, we meet a new customer who loves French pastries,” David said. “It might be a doctor on his way home from the hospital, a marketer who is stopping in to relax after a hard day at work, or even a tourist who is visiting New York. Whoever they may be, Sweet Rehab is always ready to give them a real culinary experience, one rooted in the finest traditions of France, right here in New York City.”
For more information on Sweet Rehab, please contact:
Anne Hirsch, Operations Director
sweetrehabnyc.com | @sweetrehabny