The simplistic charm encapsulated in the name O Merveilleux perfectly reflects the bakery's adorable European-style décor and selection of scrumptious Belgian pastries. Since its opening in early October, the storefront has beckoned in customers with the aroma of creamy cappuccinos and a countertop display of mouth-watering chocolate croissants and brioche buns. But O Merveilleux's specialty is its delectable namesake offering, the merveilleux, a petite Belgian meringue-based dessert that is topped with a layer of sweet whipped cream and coated in chocolate shavings.
The merveilleux is available in three varieties—white chocolate, dark chocolate, and speculoos (a Belgian favorite, reminiscent of gingerbread cookies)—but the patisserie is now offering an innovative seasonal flavor: orange coconut. My eyes glazed over the trays of decadent desserts behind the glass pane before me, taking in the yellow and gray striped walls, the long, chestnut, wooden table, the comfy couches beside petite coffee tables against the walls.
As I bit into a forkful of my dark chocolate merveilleux, the cocoa flakes permeated my taste buds, a sweet introduction to the sugary meringue wafer hidden underneath. But while the delicate outer layer melted effortlessly on my tongue, the meringue beneath it was a bit too crisp, causing the merveilleux to crumble sadly beneath the weight of my fork and making it nearly impossible to delve into the bottom of the pastry.
I was also able to taste the new orange-coconut variety, thanks to the courteous pastry chef Hans Baang, who, after a minute or so of friendly conversation, professed to me his position at the bakery and graciously offered to make it for me a day before it would be offered to the public. After all, the orange-coconut flavor was Baang's own innovation. He disappeared into the kitchen and, a few short minutes later, waltzed back through the doorway, a beret on his head and a neatly plated, orange-frosted merveilleux in his hands.
This time, my palate was greeted with a fluffy coating of creamy citrus-accented bliss. The heavenly little dessert captures the fresh orange zest without the acidity of the fruit's juice, creating a well-balanced background flavor that paired quite well with the sweetwhipped cream and meringue beneath it.
Despite the imperfections in the merveilleux's texture, I would return to the bakery—if not for another merveilleux, then at least for the enchanting atmosphere and delicious aroma that it offers. If you're looking for a flawless dessert, I'd look elsewhere. But if you're in search of a darling café and a cup of cappuccino, O Merveilleux just may be the $4.50 trip to Belgium you're looking for.
O Merveilleux is located at 1509 Second Ave., between 78th and 79th streets.
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Correction: An earlier vesion of this article misidentified O Merveilleux's cuisine as French, when, in fact, it is Belgian. Spectator regrets the error.