At the beginning there was a box, a sand-coloured paper container tightly wrapped with a straw string and a simply typed sticker whispering Kee’s Chocolates. Nothing more, no superfluous marketing, just treasures hidden inside.
Removing the chastity belt and entering the mysterious chest, like from a woman’s corset over a century ago, hand-crafted rare gems of an eye-popping beauty teeter inside. Each of them seated deeply in a dark-hued paper nest. These browny sleek shapes all glowingly call my hoggish fingers into action. It is a tough decision, which one shall I pick fist? Tap tap, while my mouth begins to salivate.
They look too pretty to be eaten hastily. Rolling an imaginary dice in my head, my fingers shiver as the chosen morsel finds its way into my longing mouth. The first bite unveils the inner treasure – is it a creamy, smooth or rather a nutty coarse filling? The second becomes irresistible and is devoured in its entirety. Indeed, tasting chocolate truffles and bonbons from Kee’s chocolates is a delicious expedition for taste buds.
Clean taste profiles, no fussiness, just pure smooth and not too sweet pleasure – that is perfection in confectionery and especially chocolate making. One can sell lots of sugar-loaded candy bars with a dust of cocoa, yet this is not what the top European chocolatiers normally do with what they called chocolate. Refinement is a much higher level of appreciation rated highly by the most distinguished taste judges. Not many mass-market fed by enormous doses of sugar and salt confused palates can capture this perfected beauty. Many of the devoted fans of Hershey or Godiva might be disappointed or the opposite – they may discover the art of a small batch additive-free tasting chocolate.
The finest ingredients from around the world are the inspiration for Kee’s chocolates. The purple pinkish rose petals adorning the surface of the Black Rose Dark Chocolate Truffle treasures inside black tea infused with rose petals. Mysterious, unique and exotic, it cannot sound more seductive. Just bite in and travel East. My favorite cream tea spot (Debutea on Thompson, ironically the very street where Kee opened her first branch) downtown offers a liquid version of it – rose, cream over black tea.
Kee’s bee comb shaped dark chocolate filled with Crème brûlée is legendary and undoubtedly delicious. Do not hesitate to put the entire nugget into your mouth, no need to bite, as its thin chocolate shell pops with easy under the inner mouth pressure. Then, an orgasmic volcano of pleasure erupts covering your taste receptors with an intense yet airy textured crème brûlée richness. The New York Times, Financial Times and the Food Network along with many online reviewers and global magazines confirm that this is “the best chocolate I have ever had” for many of these who tried.
Jasmine tea filled dark chocolate truffle was rather subtle, similar to green tea with dark chocolate where the tea’s delicate aroma gets slightly lost in the power of cocoa. But, I could still sense the touch of jasmine flowers in this truffle and enjoy its subtleness.
Thompson was inspired by the workshop’s original location on that trendy street in SoHo. It is made from three layers of
“Whipped cream over milk or dark chocolate, smothered with a milk or dark coating”.
Tiramisu looks quite simple and it indeed is just the world-famous
“Dark chocolate truffle coated with cocoa powder”, yet of superb quality, melting smoothly and leaving a lasting aftertaste.
Crystalized Almond is crumbling under the teeth’s bites smoothened by creamy dark ganache.
Mint Mocha surprises with a dollop of whipped cream inside the tiny bean crowning the top, while its refreshing minty infusion inside the ganache adds a tasty kick.
The Macao-born owner Kee Ling Tong is very friendly in the typical Asian manner. She smiles, helps you to choose and gives tasting samples of her exquisite morsels [politely buying some after tasting comes naturally thanks to their quality]. Her story is inspiring. She left her dull corporate job to do something more rewarding and she dipped herself deeply into chocolate. Inside her brick-walled small choco-lab she crafts her sweets with the help of only a few workers. Kee’s is truly a boutique operation.
Exotic Asian flavours could not escape Kee’s mood-board. I tried one of them, the Thai Chilli Chocolate. At first the spice was hiding, as the rich smooth chocolate prevailed on the palate, but later you get a nice thai chilli punch. Kaffir Lime is in a similar mood. The “Fresh Thai lime is infused with dark chocolate”, while Keylime Milk or Dark Chocolate ganache filled with fresh-squeezed keylime celebrates the southern Florida coast. There are also some seasonal flavours like Yuzu and Pineapple lychee, that fill your sweet lips with anticipation.
Not only chocolate-based bites are made by Kee’s staff, but also macarons, glorified by many adorers of this crunchy French buns glued together with a creamy sticky spread, cookies and a small range of milk and dark chocolate bars.
The Kee’s chocolates milk chocolate bars are made with 35% cocoa content in a growing garden of flavours: Cranberry pistachio, Hazelnut, Almond, Latte, Lemon, Orange, Ginger salt, Salt figs.
The Kee’s chocolates dark chocolate bars contain 64% cocoa base in manifold incarnations: Chili sesame, Plain sesame, Coconut almond, Cranberry pistachio, Ghost pepper, Espresso, Sea salt, Ginger salt, Almond, Bergamot, Jasmine, Lemon, Orange, Salt figs.
For a chocolate buff like me, the Hibiscus dark chocolate bar sounded the most different from all I have tried so far. Kee’s love for flowers intuited that this might be an interesting choice. The balance of cocoa, sugar and the distinct hibiscus aroma was just right. I meditated over the profound floral fragrance that felt soothing like being in a peaceful garden.
Keep all your freshly made truffles refrigerated and consume within one week of purchase. In case of some, like the legendary Crème brûlée, slurping the morsel whole within two days is highly advised.
The prices are very reasonable, the high quality ingredients and hand-made production on Manhattan needed to be included in the price.
Each bonbon and truffle piece is about $2.85 (tax incl.), while the macarons are $ 3 each.
Upper West Side: 228 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10023
Boutique open: Wednesday through Sunday, 12pm to 5pm
Phone: +1 917 965-2216