Believe the hype. All the rave reviews of Doughnut Plant are spot on. Mark Isreal has revamped the workingman’s pastry, the humble doughnut, into an affordable, street-friendly, nine-star dessert. Isreal’s variety of flavors and combinations make his generations-old family recipe come to life in ways that are unexpected and sophisticated, especially for a doughnut.
The standouts are many. First, there is Isreal’s signature creation, the Tres Leches, a bright, delicious cake doughnut that is ever-so-slightly filled with a mild creamy custard, so subtle, in fact, that you might even miss it, but you would notice that it just contributed to the most incredibly fresh and moist cake that’s ever passed your lips. If you weren’t expecting it, the surprise is even more delightful.
We also tried the Pistachio, with nuts mixed right in the glaze and within the cake doughnut itself—magnificent—and the chocolate chip, which, at a glance looks so modest, dressed in mere cookie crumbs. Underneath awaits a sweet, delicately rich chocolate jacket wrapping a heavenly-rich chocolate chip cake. Rumor has it that the Blackout doughnut is like some sort of crime with chocolate, and that the Coconut Glazed, which is hand-piped with handmade coconut cream, is unforgettable.
At first, we were skeptical. After all, the place better be special if it’s going in the Hotel Chelsea, but Doughnut Plant is seamlessly integrated, with a specially designed iron counter that matches the ornamentation on the hotel itself. An old photograph of Isreal’s grandfather, Herman Isreal, is illuminated on the rear wall. Isreal’s father, the potter Marvin Isreal, made the colorful art that hangs alongside it. The mirrored bathroom pays homage to Studio 54, among Mark Isreal’s earliest jobs in New York.
Doughnut Plant’s attention to detail is great, the flavors are many, and the atmosphere is lively. We experienced quick service and a friendly staff, but half the flavors were already sold-out by mid-afternoon. At roughly $2.75 a doughnut, you likely won’t buy a dozen, nor should you. These creations are substantial, filling, and will satisfy the pickiest sweet tooth among us. Get four or five of them and have a tasting party, exploring each flavor against the other over a pot of Joe.
Isreal began baking 16 years ago in the basement of his Lower East Side tenement apartment building. He built his business from the ground up, staying up each night baking and then, in the early morning, bicycling throughout the city to make deliveries to gourmet and coffee shop owners who bought his doughnuts wholesale. Now he has several Doughnut Plant locations, including two in New York (the other is on the Lower East Side at 379 Grand Street).
Overall, the newest Doughnut Plant location is a perfect fit for the hip Chelsea neighborhood. Expect long lines, especially as the weather warms and store hours are extended. Once you try them you will never want another doughnut.
Review By: Joann Jovinelly