Dressing up in chocolate
On our recent visit to D.C., Ronnie and I had two different but equally fun chocolate experiences: One, a swanky chocolate-themed lounge, and the other, an up-and-coming chocolatier.
Co Co. Sala in downtown D.C., combines a high-end lounge with a tasteful chocolate boutique. We had already tried chocolates from their boutique, which are very good, so we were keen on checking out the lounge. We met a pal there for dinner and dessert (of course!) one brisk winter evening.
The lounge is a great-looking space with a chocolate and red color theme. The tables and chairs are low, very lounge-y. The lighting makes everybody look beautiful.
Drinks set the stage
We started with their chocolate-based drinks. Ronnie had the Chocolate Safari Rooibos tea, which he declared a nice mix of tea and a strong chocolate flavor, and our friend had the Allure, a lychee & sparkling wine drink served in a tall glass with a white chocolate curl that was very pretty and festive looking.
I had the Co Cojito, which substitutes chocolate-infused vodka for rum and adds dark chocolate shavings to the traditional lime and mint. I thought it was not entirely successful. The 3 flavors seemed equally balanced so they fought for attention.
I would’ve liked it better if one flavor was dialed back (but not the chocolate!) so it’s either a chocolate/lime drink with an undertone of mint or chocolate/mint with a taste of lime. And maybe serve it with a spoon because all those chocolate shavings don’t dissolve; instead they settle frustratingly to the bottom.
Lucky for me there was more chocolate to come.
Co Co. Sala is all about the chocolate, so a lot of the menu items include chocolate in some way. In fact, the only non-chocolate item we tried was the only one we didn’t finish: garlic fries. Maybe they should try dusting them with cocoa powder?
The menu was a little complicated — still not sure the logic behind listing items in 3 different places when they all came to the table together — but the waitress was very helpful and fun in guiding us through it.
We splurged on the Lobster Crostini: Maine lobster topped with sliced salted grapes and mozzarella, sitting on a bead of chocolate-themed sauce (I forget what now). Nice enough, but I think switching in crab for the lobster would be tastier.
The jerk chicken sliders came topped with cheese and a chipotle, white chocolate & mango ganache. They were very hot and spicy, which was good, but we couldn’t taste the chocolate. At this point, I was thinking this is more about the concept of chocolate in savory dishes than actual chocolate-ly foods.
The third dish saved it for me: scallops with a seared cocoa nib crust did have a noticeable cocoa taste. They also came topped best-Sunday-hat-style with what looked like lotus root chips. The waitress called it cacao nib, but we all know that’s not what cacao nibs look like.
Other chocolate-themed dinner options included a cocoa-nib cheese-stuffed jalapeno beignet, a crabcake with chipotle-chocolate-tomato glaze (that’s what I’ll get next time instead of the lobster), and beef sliders with a mole sauce.
Portions are small — just a taste for everybody — so there’s room for dessert!
We ♥ Co Co. Sala dessert
Since portions are small, we saw no problem in ordering three desserts, although we felt a little silly saying our order — A Raspberry Affair, A Sticky Situation, and Chocolate Onyx.
The Raspberry Affair, pictured above, included a heart-shaped white chocolate/raspberry mousse, a scoop of pomegranate champagne sorbet sitting on “crispy chocolate pearls” (like chocolate-covered Rice Krispies) and topped with a white chocolate curl, and a goji berry bonbon. If your taste in chocolate leans toward fruit and chocolate combos, get this one.
The Chocolate Onyx is aimed at dark chocolate lovers. At the bottom right of the plate is a brownie encasing a salted caramel, above it a scoop of dark chocolate mousse atop a crème brulee and topped itself with a dark chocolate curl, hidden behind that is a cinnamon toffee bonbon. A long streak of caramel and chocolate finishes the plate. If you came to Co Co. Sala for a serious chocolate fix, get this.
The Sticky Situation is chocolate comfort food. The warm sticky toffee pudding cake was topped with cream and chocolate shavings, surrounded by a brown butter toffee sauce. It was accompanied by a scoop of ginger caramel ice cream sitting on more of those chocolate pearls and wearing its own chocolate curl topper.
Worth a repeat visit
We enjoyed Co Co. Sala. The space feels very special, and the drinks are generous and interesting. It’s a little pricy, the food was not amazing, but it was fun and tasty. This is not a place for gorging yourself, which I liked because the small portions made the delicious chocolate desserts guilt free. Just a wonderful way to spend an evening.
Here’s looking at you, kid
I have to comment on one aspect of Co Co. Sala’s interior design: the bathrooms. They are down a narrow hall, and you know you’ve arrived when you look through a large, round window to your left and see bathroom sinks. No need for signs in this place.
When you enter the space, it is divided into men on the left (next to the window) and women on the right, but a word of caution, ladies: What looks like 2 stalls is actually one, perfectly aligned next to a full-length mirror to fool you into thinking there are two. I was surprised not to see the mirror smudged with handprints or maybe a full-body print left by someone carelessly headed toward the second stall.
As I said, the sinks are in full view of anyone walking down the hall, and they are co-ed, so they have the potential to take some of the sexy out of the evening depending on your sink-side manner.
Perfect for special occasions in the nation’s capitol
I’d recommend Co Co. Sala if you’re looking for a dress-up chocolate experience. The place feels great, and I can see working my way through their creative drinks list (a malted milk martini!), although not so quickly that I forget about that “second stall.” And the desserts are super-fun chocolate collages. They also have weekend brunch that sounds good — more chocolate-themed menu choices and drinks.
And if you get there at a reasonable hour, you can pick up some of their bars and bonbons at their pretty chocolate boutique next door.
A writer/designer, Nancy lives in Oakland with Ronnie, her husband of many years & fellow chocolate enthusiast.
Date posted: February 5, 2013. This entry was posted in American chocolate, Outside the Bay Area and tagged brownie, cacao nibs, champagne, chipotle, chocolate dessert, cinnamon, Co Co. Sala, goji berry, lime, lychee, mango, mint, mole sauce, pomegranate, raspberry, restaurant, rice krispies, salted caramel, tea, toffee, vodka. Bookmark the permalink.