Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
"We were dating for two months and just said to each other, 'let's start something!'" That's how the always-smiling Simon Tung* describes the genesis of Macaron Parlour, the macaron pop-up with flavors including Earl Grey and Candied Bacon, that made the rounds at markets like the Hester Street Fair and Madison Square Eats.
* The kitchen crew's nickname for him is "The Happy Face."
Things have changed a little since we last checked in. For starters, Simon's now married to his girlfriend, Christina Ha, a veteran of Karen DeMasco's pastry kitchen at Locanda Verde. And their dream of a brick and mortar shop has finally been realized. Macaron Parlour Patisserie opened recently on St. Mark's Place, joining the ranks of hip East Village sweeteries like ChikaLicious, Big Gay Ice Cream, and Puddin'.
Macarons, in flavors both traditional and unique, are the headline of the new shop. But a whole slew of other pastries is joining them: French croissants, American cookies and breakfast sweets, and, because they can, the occasional doughnut. The tie between them all? "These are the things we think about all day while we're working and eating," Christina explains.
Macarons abound in this city, and there's no shortage of newcomers to the scene with their own flavors. But Macaron Parlour's aim to do more than just transplant new flavors into the French cookies; they go for texture and spirit as well. So the pistachio cookie is made with actual pistachios as well as the typical almonds, and the tiramasu cream is based on zabaglione.
Christina's pastry background stretches well beyond macarons, and the couple is taking advantage of that at this shop. They're selling a traditional croissant ($2) and a rolled, raspberry-stuffed kouign-amann-like version ($3) that features a glaze of caramelized sugar around the rim. Brownies come in dark, fudgy slabs; blondies "are basically butter held together with brown sugar, and they taste like it."
A massive sticky bun ($4), glazed with honey and brown sugar and topped with streusel, "can feed six tiny Asian girls—or one Robyn Lee." The streusel recalls a fond memory from her Locanda days: "I love it. I'd always sneak bites of whatever streusel fell off the pastries during baking."
The shop is set up for easy to-go orders, but also has cozy cafe seating in the back. There's pourover and cold brew coffee from Blue Bottle ($3; with hopes for an espresso machine soon), tea from Harney & Sons ($2.50), and house-made raspberry lemonade ($3). "We really want to be a neighborhood spot," Simon says. That includes keeping later hours than most pastry shops—til 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays—in line with several other sweet spots in the East Village.
What's really exciting to Simon and Christina about finally having a store to call their own? For a start, the freedom to experiment even more than they did before. This Halloween they'll be doing a special black and orange macaron made with Cheetoh filling—yes—and a dusting of cheese powder on top. And Christina's stoked about the s'mores doughnuts that are currently in testing, which will be sold as Sunday specials.
Take a look at the slideshow for a peek at [almost] the whole menu.