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Best Creme Brulee

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Le Cirque 2000
455 Madison Avenue
212-303-7788

Now that every possible riff on this classic dessert -- Earl Grey, ginger, passion-fruit, butterscotch, you name it -- has been exhausted, it's time to go back to Le Cirque, where creme brulee was first made famous. By simply sticking with the basics (vanilla, cream, eggs, and brown sugar), Le Cirque transformed what was originally a homey English pudding into a gold-star standard. The custard is smooth and round on the palate, never pasty or oversweet, but most important, it's baked in a saucer shallow enough so you get a proper balance of crunch and cream with each bite. It's worth putting on a tie and jacket and heading over just for dessert, where you can order it at the bar, even if that means suffering the haughty bartender (who seems to believe he still lives in France -- where, incidentally, it's impossible to find good creme brulee).

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