The Ultimate: Bread Pudding
In theory, bread pudding is ingenious — add a little sugar, cream, and maybe a sprinkle of nutmeg, and yesterday’s stale loaves morph into a rich, velvety treat. In practice, though, plenty of restaurants turn out dense, dry, and flavorless (or worse, overly sweet) lumps of lead. Grill 23 does the dessert proud with its French toast bread pudding. Dig through the topping of cool maple ice cream and the pudding’s crunchy, golden crust gives way to a silky, custardlike center with delicate spice. Of course, no breakfast-inspired confection would be complete without bacon, and pastry chef Molly Hanson delivers with a single praline-coated strip. Paired with a strong cappuccino, it’s the perfect salty-sweet finish to a steakhouse meal. Grill 23, 161 Berkeley St., Boston, 617-542-2255, grill23.com.
Eastern Standard ***1/2
A butterscotch bread pudding served with praline ice cream and salted caramel sauce, it’s rich, decadent, and moist. The ice cream is intense, however, and too large a scoop can overpower the butterscotch flavor of the custard and the gooey salted caramel. 528 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-9100, easternstandardboston.com.
This very moist bread pudding is baked in a white-chocolate custard and served warm with vanilla ice cream, crème anglaise, and salted caramel. Though not the most inventive of the bunch, it’s extremely silky and decadent, not too heavy, and well balanced. 24 Fleet St., Boston, 617-227-1577, prezza.com.
Though it’s now not on the menu, Union’s was not quite a true bread pudding, but rather made by infusing a slice of cake with a maple-flavored custard. The maple and caramel sauce lend it a bit too much sweetness, though the basic-but-good vanilla bean ice cream is a nice complement. 1357 Washington St., Boston, 617-423-0555, unionrestaurant.com.
[sidebar]Matt Murphy’s **1/2
The heaviest of all the bread puddings, it gets bonus points for using house-made bread, and for the wonderful sautéed-pear topping. Unfortunately, the caramel is too sugary, and the bread is too dense and dry to make it a winner. 14 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-232-0188, mattmurphyspub.com.
Petit Robert Central **
A valiant attempt at a white-chocolate bread pudding, it falters in the execution. Made with a white-chocolate custard, the pudding turns out bland and crumbly in the middle. The crust probably started out crunchy when oven-fresh, but the topping of vanilla ice cream renders it soggy by the time it arrives on the table. 101 Arch St., Boston, 617-737-1777, petitrobertcentral.com.