Despite being born, raised and professionally trained in France, New York considers Jacques Torres one of its own. With a charming French accent, relaxed European style and a mastery of pastry and chocolate that rivals the best in the world, Jacques Torres is an asset that any city would be proud of. After serving as Executive Pastry Chef at the famous New York restaurant, Le Cirque, Chef Torres opened his own factory and retail store in Brooklyn (in 2000) and is currently focusing on his newest Manhattan store, Chocolate Haven.
We visited Chocolate Haven when it first opened in December 2004, and found ourselves overjoyed with the selection of chocolate, but not with the look and feel of the space. For the culmination of dessert week we wanted to see how the store has grown in the last few months, and decided to trek (through the wind, snow and freezing cold of a winter storm) to Chocolate Haven once again.
The entrance to the store is a small, orange, lobby-like space that noticeably lacks any reference to Jacques Torres or chocolate. Stepping through a second door will lead you into the cocoa bean shaped chocolate shop, with a long, curved chocolate counter, small cafe and large windows with views into the chocolate factory. The design of the store is opposite of what the name suggests, and has industrial style orange and white walls, metal light fixtures, exposed air vents and cement floors. A chandelier and scattered flower and butterfly decorations help soften the atmosphere.
The selection available in the store has significantly increased since December; there are many small gifts and seasonal items, including Easter baskets and chocolate bunnies in various shapes, sizes and dress (one is even wearing a western “cowbunny” costume). After browsing the chocolate counter we decided to purchase a hot chocolate and a variety of chocolate pieces, all of which verified the claim that Jacques Torres is New York’s premier chocolatier. We left the store with our chocolate cravings satisfied, but still wondered why the word “haven” was selected for the name of such a modern looking space.
What we bought: 10 Assorted Chocolates ($1/each) and a small cup of hot chocolate ($3).
Cost: The price and quality of Jacques Torres chocolate can’t be beat. A $25 piece box of assorted truffles is only $24 at Jacques Torres, compared to $47 at MarieBelle.
Wait: Little to no wait at the cafe and chocolate counter.
Atmosphere: Despite the elite name Jacques Torres brings to the shop, the store is friendly and inviting. Bright colors, hard surfaces and views of the chocolate machinery make the space feel more like a factory than a comforting chocolate shop.
Uniqueness: The factory windows are characteristic of Jacques Torres’ uncommon willingness to share his knowledge and experience in the chocolate business. Customers can see everything from the production machinery to his choice of Belgian chocolate, Belcolade.
Clientele: Chocolate enthusiasts, families, and lower Manhattan residents.
Location: Easily accessibly by subway, Chocolate Haven is just two blocks from the Houston stop on the 1/9 subway line.
Staff: Very friendly and eager to explain all of the chocolate varieties available.
Final Verdict: The best New York source for high quality, reasonably priced chocolates.
Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven
350 Hudson Street (at King)