Ginger Donuts with Coconut Sorbet
"When my family eats at the restaurant, they always get the ginger donuts," says Tsunami's owner and chef Ben Smith.
The ginger donuts with coconut sorbet ($8) at Tsunami have been a solid seller for five or six years. Smith says they tie nicely into the restaurant's Pacific Rim theme, while also honoring the South's love of deep-fried foods.
The ginger donuts are about the size of golf balls and have a crusty exterior and a cakey, gooey interior and are dusted with powdered sugar. They aren't too sweet. Their deliciousness lies somewhere between coffee cake and funnel cake.
Smith says they aren't your standard donut as they are a bit denser and are laced with fresh ginger. "The fresh ginger makes a big difference and gives a big punch of flavor," he says. There are three per order, and it is a hearty dessert.
He didn't always pair them with a big scoop of his coconut sorbet, but once he did he found it was the perfect match and provided balance. The final touch on the dish is a light coating of ginger syrup, also made with fresh ginger. "It's a double whammy of fresh ginger," says Smith.
Down the street, Josh Steiner is making a name for himself at Strano by sharing his family's Sicilian and Moroccan influenced recipes. His carrot cake has been creating a lot of buzz, but the Zappolies ($7.50) on the brunch menu are a must try. (They are available by special request at dinner.) There are six per order.
The Zeppola is a traditional Italian pastry. Billed as his "Family's Recipe for Donuts Rolled in Cinnamon Sugar with a side of Berry Sweet Sauce," the Zappolies are reminiscent of a traditional beignet. Let's call them cousins. The Zappolies are a tad smaller, a little more free form in shape, and feature cinnamon sugar rather than powdered sugar. The texture is almost exactly the same.
What make Strano's Zappolies really special are the accompanying dipping sauces. The "Berry sweet sauce" includes a little Campari and is devilishly sweet. As a bonus, a heavenly hazelnut dipping sauce also accompanied my order. Imagine a thinner, warmer Nutella. It was hard to say which sauce was better for dipping, but it was fun trying to figure it out.
Crazy Noodle chef Ji Won Choi says her Korean donut holes ($5.99) are traditional, but the dessert presentation is not. She makes them with wheat flour mixed with green tea powder, so they are not at all sweet, but they have a very appealing flavor.
Slightly larger than marbles, the donuts are cakey and quite dense — perfect for repeatedly popping into one's mouth. The menu shows them to be a bit larger, but my order had nine of the small donut holes surrounding a heaping mound of vanilla ice cream, crisscrossed with generous amounts of chocolate sauce, and topped with a heavy dusting of sugar and cinnamon. The presentation is quite festive — so much so that it seemed like it was my birthday. Or someone's!
The dessert is definitely a crowd pleaser. My children practically licked the plate clean.
(The menu description says "this dessert contains nuts," but no actual nuts were observed — only donuts!)