Ivanhoe dessert bar Better Than Sex garners a reputation as a house of sweet repute 

Sugar walls

click to enlarge bartlettimage-betterthansex-9256.jpg

Photo by Rob Bartlett

Is Better Than Sex really better than sex? I suppose it depends on what kind of sex we're talking about, but before this review degrades into a Dan Savage column, let me just say that any advice offered here will focus solely on the intimate details of the après-dinner boudoir of dessert debauchery in Ivanhoe Village.

Yes, food porn is taken quite literally at Better Than Sex. Its walls are accoutered with erotic photographs, and every meal begins with a happy ending. Flirtatious servers slink about selling you on such sweet indulgences as the "Tongue Bath Truffle," "Cookie Nookie" and "Money Shot" – so, yeah, not the place to hold your kid's birthday party. The barbs of innuendo add a jovial spice to this dessert-only restaurant, which seems to be just as popular a spot for sucking face as it is for scarfing desserts. Extremely dim lighting sets the tone, and the French bordello design motif plays right into it, though the occasional flash (of phone cameras, unfortunately) can render an amorous moment impotent.

But there's plenty here to put you back in the mood. A glass of Freakshow cabernet rimmed with dark chocolate is like libationary foreplay ($10), as is a little cream (house-made Irish cream, that is) in your coffee ($9). After the beverages, make a menu selection from the iPad – no matter the choice, it's likely to leave you satisfied, and that includes a very orthodox "Missionary Crisp" ($10.69), with skin-on Red Delicious apples and buttery cake topping. Caramelized sugar "flirts" and "balls" of vanilla bean ice cream, while theme-appropriate, aren't exactly deviant additions. If you're looking to walk on the wild side, consider the "Morning After" ($11.69) – a sandwich of grilled Danish brie and Belgian dark chocolate dusted in cinnamon and powdered sugar, with a side of strawberry champagne soup for dipping.

The "Twist & Stout" ($12.69) might sound intimidating, but don't let the name scare you. The girth of chocolate cake, the tart chocolate center, the glaze of dark chocolate stout – it's all quite easy to swallow, even with a sugar-shard-encased pretzel penetrating the top of the dessert. A chaser of Irish cream ice cream was a bit too sweet, but calling something "too sweet" here is like calling a steak at Ruth's Chris "too beefy." The "Cookie Nookie Pie" ($9.69) features a warm chocolate chip cookie with pecans wrapped in flaky pie crust and, no surprise here, but: They definitely don't skimp on the nuts.

You'll notice the cost of the desserts all end in "69," and if you're wondering why, well ... you're probably in the wrong restaurant.

Now to the unpleasantries: Our arms and elbows stuck to the tables. At first we thought it an intentional, if perverse, gimmick, but then I was assured by the staff it wasn't, and that it's just one of the unfortunate results of rimming glasses with chocolate, caramel and honey. In fact, servers spend an extra hour after closing wiping down tables even before the professional cleaners come in.

It might be a good idea to get tested after eating at Better Than Sex ... your blood sugar levels, that is. Why, what did you think we meant?


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