Usually when you say you had smoke pouring out of your mouth on a Friday night, parents fill with rage and teachers look at you suspiciously. However, a fun dessert sold at Chocolate Chair in San Francisco uses liquid nitrogen to create a smoky and delicious experience.
As you near the shop, nestled in the Japan Center West Mall in San Francisco, you can hear a high pitched squeak as workers prepare desserts in a small, unassuming ice cream shop. The parlor stands quietly amongst several sushi eateries, Japanese beauty shops and bakeries. The shop is reasonably hard to find, buried in the
middle of the mall across from a small bakery.
It would be easy to walk by and ignore the shop if not for the giant tank of nitrogen sitting in front and a steady flow of white smoke billowing over a glass divider like fog rolling over a hill.
Serving ice cream, coffee and baked goods, Chocolate Chair’s main attraction is its famous “Dragon Breath,” a treat consisting of fruity cereal puffs flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen.
Being handed the clear plastic cup of the dessert is like being handed a cup of snow. The chill is instant and sharp. Ice forms on the outside of the cup while smoke flows over the top onto your hand.
While I was amazed by the tendrils of cool fog that poured out of my mouth and nose with each bite of cereal, the taste was underwhelming, lacking any pop of sweetness or sourness or any flavor whatsoever. This dessert is about the experience, not the flavor.
The cereal was nothing special, like a muted fruity cereal that had been stuck in a freezer. At times the treat stung my tongue and hurt my teeth to crunch. The texture and taste was comparable to styrofoam.
Strangely, however, I was unbothered by the lack of taste; the novelty of it made up for any flaws. The dessert goes against anything our parents told us about playing with our food. In this case, the point of the food is to play with it. I was more amused with the smoky coolness than I was about the flavor.
Chocolate Chair is an interesting place to go to with a group of friends or on a date. Eating Dragon’s Breath may not be something you want to do regularly, but it’s something that is exciting at least for the first time you try it.
The overall experience is a refreshingly cold, amusing treat that can be fun to try with friends, families or your significant other. This unique dessert is a jewel in Japantown and a “breath” of fresh air.