It goes without saying that Pourtal, a fashionable wine bar overlooking the ocean in downtown Santa Monica, has an intelligent and always interesting selection of wines. But the food brings just as much to the table, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Chef Sean Takaki, working out of a kitchen smaller than most walk-in closets and outfitted only with a countertop convection oven and a single induction burner, turns out an impressive menu one can only loosely refer to as “bar snacks.” We’re talking Kobe beef mini-dogs, Niman Ranch lamb sliders, amazing tater tots with chipotle aioli, house-made buttery spanikopita (spinach wrapped in filo dough), a pork belly sandwich, and a truffled macaroni and cheese topped with buttery-crisp crumbs.
But the highlight on a recent visit was the pain au chocolat on the chocolate dessert sampler, a scaled-down version of the traditional French chocolate-filled croissant. Takaki’s version was born of the need to use up some leftover frozen dough – either a puff pastry or a croissant dough, he wasn’t sure – from Irvine’s Orange Bakery. He cut it into small squares, filled it with Valrhona dark chocolate, brushed it with butter, sprinkled on some turbinado sugar, and blasted it in a hot oven. The result: crisp melting pastry, oozing chocolate, and a lingering taste of buttery divinity. Paired with a small glass of Casta Diva “Moscatol” dessert wine from Alicante in Spain, it ended the evening on a perfect note.
To recreate this at home, Takaki suggests Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, readily available in the freezer section of local grocery stores. Use any chocolate you like, although dark chocolate cuts the richness of the pastry better than milk chocolate. Serve as a decadent breakfast or an elegant dessert.
Pourtal’s pain au chocolat
- 1 sheet puff pastry dough (about 9 inches square), thawed
- 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 Tbsp butter, melted
- 1 tsp turbinado sugar (substitute any coarse sugar)
Preheat oven to 500 degrees or highest setting, with convection if your oven has it.
Cut the sheet of puff pastry into 12 equal squares. Sprinkle the chocolate in a horizontal line on each square. Roll the squares of dough loosely around the chocolate and place seam-side down on a lined baking sheet. Brush the rolls with the melted butter and sprinkle the sugar over the tops.
Bake the rolls 5-6 minutes or until they are golden brown and the chocolate is starting to ooze out the ends. Cool 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then serve warm.
Pourtal, 104 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica 90401, email [email protected], Twitter @Pourtal.