A choco­late lover’s par­adise

The Dark Gallery prom­ises a won­drous jour­ney through the best that pre­mium dark choco­late has to of­fer.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste - By ABIRAMI DURAI star2@thes­tar.com.my

IN the past few years, there has been a grow­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the hum­ble ca­cao bean, with more peo­ple learn­ing how to en­joy ar­ti­sanal dark choco­late over its more com­mer­cially vi­able sis­ter, milk choco­late.

Li­hui Li, the CEO of Sin­ga­pore­based Thir­tythree Pri­vate Lim­ited – a bou­tique brand and fran­chise man­age­ment out­fit that owns fran­chises like Amer­i­can brand Mar­ble Slab Cream­ery and Sin­ga­pore­based or­ganic cold pressed juice brand HicJuice – saw the po­ten­tial in bean-to-bar choco­lates after trav­el­ling ex­ten­sively and try­ing some of th­ese ar­ti­sanal choco­lates on her trips abroad.

Bean-to-bar choco­lates are those in which ev­ery step of the choco­late-mak­ing process is done by the choco­late maker.

“I don’t have a very sweet tooth, so my im­pres­sion of choco­late has al­ways been that it’s kind of sweet, and ‘heaty’ from an Asian per­spec­tive. But in my trav­els, I came across a few emerg­ing bean-to-bar ar­ti­sanal choco­late mak­ers. When I tasted th­ese choco­lates, I was like, ‘Wow!’ This was the first time I had tasted choco­late in a dif­fer­ent ‘light’.”

That dis­cov­ery prompted her to con­sider do­ing more with choco­late lo­cally, ex­plor­ing a con­cept com­bin­ing food and ed­u­ca­tion.

“I thought choco­late was a good can­vas, be­cause there is so much more to dis­cover about it,” she says.

Which is why she de­cided to launch The Dark Gallery in the newly-minted MyTown Cheras Shop­ping Cen­tre.

The bou­tique dessert cafe spe­cialises in all forms of dark choco­late con­coc­tions, like ice creams, bon bons, hot choco­late, mac­arons, choco­late waf­fles, ice cream cakes, gra­nola, cook­ies, choco­late bars and so much more.

What sort of choco­late can you ex­pect from The Dark Gallery?

Well, the cafe uses a lot of pre­mium French Val­rhona choco­late to make items like its sig­na­ture 80% ca­cao dark choco­late ice cream, 38% ca­cao milk choco­late, and white choco­late ice cream.

Then there are the spe­cially sourced bean-to-bar choco­lates, from coun­tries like Tan­za­nia and Haiti, and sin­gle ori­gin choco­lates from Mada­gas­car, the Do­mini­can Repub­lic and Venezuela. The sin­gle ori­gin plat­ters will be up­dated ev­ery few months, so that cus­tomers will have new choices.

Nav­i­gat­ing the ins and outs of the var­i­ous choco­late op­tions at The Dark Gallery can get tricky (only be­cause you’re very likely to get greedy) so if you’re plagued with in­de­ci­sion (read: glut­tony), in­dulge in the sin­gle ori­gin tast­ing plat­ters.

The plat­ters ba­si­cally give din­ers the op­por­tu­nity to sam­ple a wider range of choco­late of­fer­ings, en­com­pass­ing a cu­rated se­lec­tion of sin­gle ori­gin choco­lates.

Li and the bean-to-bar ex­perts that she re­cruited did a lot of R&D and tested over 20 sin­gle ori­gin choco­lates with dif­fer­ent ca­cao per­cent­ages, as they wanted to show­case dark choco­late vari­ants that were dis­tinc­tive from each other.

The Sin­gle Ori­gin Dark Choco­late Ice Cream

Plat­ter (RM21) for in­stance, fea­tures a trio of ice cream scoops – the 64% ca­cao Mada­gas­can, 70% ca­cao Do­mini­can Repub­lic and 72% ca­cao Venezue­lan.

The tast­ing plat­ter comes with a sheet of pa­per that de­tails the bit­ter­ness, acid­ity and taste pro­file of the in­di­vid­ual choco­lates, so that din­ers are aware of the in­tri­ca­cies of what they are con­sum­ing. Ideally, the ice cream should be con­sumed from low­est to high­est bit­ter­ness lev­els, so as not to over­whelm the palate.

With each ice cream, you’ll dis­cover sub­tle nu­ances and dis­tin­guish­ing fea­tures. The 64% ca­cao Mada­gas­can ice cream is creamy and rich with fruity un­der­tones, while the 70% ca­cao Do­mini­can Repub­lic is more ro­bust and per­fect for die-hard choco­late afi­ciona­dos.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the 70% Do­mini­can Repub­lic and 72% ca­cao Venezualan is very slight, but the lat­ter has more pro­nounced choco­late flavours, with a tinge of but­ter­scotch.

Li’s ex­pe­ri­ence with Mar­ble Slab Cream­ery means she al­ready knows the es­sen­tials of mak­ing good ice cream – that’s why The Dark Gallery’s ice cream in­cor­po­rates 13% cream and has a tex­ture like soft, downy cot­ton. It’s ad­dic­tive, but steers clear of be­ing sick­en­ingly cloy­ing.

“When there’s too much cream, the first mouth­ful tastes re­ally heavenly, but after the third one, your taste buds will be ‘blinded’ – you can’t taste the dif­fer­ence be­cause too much fat has coated your tongue. We dis­cov­ered that 13% cream is creamy, but doesn’t mar the taste of the ice cream,” says Li.

If you’re more of a hot choco­late fan, try the Sin­gle Ori­gin Hot Choco­late Shots Plat­ter (RM15) which fea­tures the same three sin­gle ori­gin choco­lates mixed with hot milk.

You’ll get slightly dif­fer­ent flavour pro­files from the choco­late in its melted form. The 64% ca­cao Mada­gas­car hot choco­late is still fruity, but has a tinge of sour­ness to it; the 70% Do­mini­can Repub­lic has very dense choco­late flavours while the 72% Venezue­lan is al­most op­u­lent in its rich­ness.

If you wan­der into The Dark Gallery on a hot swel­ter­ing day, or­der the cold Choc Cube Hazel­nut Latte (RM18), a shot of espresso with hazel­nut syrup, frozen choco­late cubes and warm milk. The idea is to add the milk and espresso to the frozen choco­late cubes. As the cubes melt, the drink be­comes pro­gres­sively more choco­latey. This is a grat­i­fy­ing perk-me-up that serves up im­mense plea­sure points, as you can choose to suck on the frozen cubes or let them melt and amp up the drink’s choco­late fac­tor.

The Dark Gallery also makes its own choco­late take-away items in­clud­ing the in­sanely ad­dic­tive Ar­ti­sanal Choco­late Sables (RM20) which are crunchy, but­tery and supremely choco­latey.

It also has a range of house­made choco­late bon bons (RM4.50 each) which are in­fused with flavours like pas­sion­fruit, co­conut gula Me­laka and caramelised figs.

The pas­sion­fruit of­fers an ex­plo­sion of fruity flavours, while the co­conut gula Me­laka is a lit­tle like Cad­bury’s Bounty bars, al­beit in a lo­calised palm sugar con­text.

Then there is the caramelised fig, which of­fers the sweet­ness of figs jux­ta­posed against creamy choco­late in what proves to be a de­light­ful pair­ing of soul­mates.

De­spite the sheer vol­ume of choco­late prod­ucts on of­fer at The Dark Gallery, ev­ery­thing is made in-house. The ice cream is freshly churned ev­ery day, cones are made in-store, and the cakes and pas­tries are pro­duced by the in-house pas­try chefs.

The Dark Gallery’s of­fer­ings come at sur­pris­ingly rea­son­able prices, in spite of the pre­mium choco­late used; Li says this is be­cause she wants every­one to be able to ap­pre­ci­ate what the dessert cafe has to of­fer.

“We want more peo­ple to know about it, so we are not set­ting it as a lux­ury prod­uct,” she says.

The Dark Gallery

Level 1, MyTown Shop­ping Cen­tre No 6, Jalan Cochrane, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-2715 7360

Open daily, 11am to 10pm

— Pho­tos: SA­MUEL ONG/The Star

The plat­ter of sin­gle ori­gin dark choco­late ice creams of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to sam­ple three dif­fer­ent types of ar­ti­sanal choco­late ice cream, with dis­tinc­tive taste pro­files.

Ev­ery­thing in The Dark Gallery is made in-house, in­clud­ing the as­sorted mac­arons and the re­cently launched bon bons.

Li was in­spired to start The Dark Gallery after tast­ing ar­ti­sanal choco­late on her trips abroad. The whole idea is to en­cour­age peo­ple to dis­cover more about choco­late.

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