Lucky Buddha's Five-Spice Crème Brûlée: A Spice-Infused Rendition of a Classic Dessert

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Welcome to Sugar High, a series devoted solely to spotlighting the best ways to sate a sweet tooth in St. Louis. We'll sample the best the city has to offer at restaurants, bakeries and holes-in-the-wall, and provide some insight on how these confections are made along the way.

Lucky Buddha's five-spice crème brulee. | Photos by Mabel Suen
  • Lucky Buddha's five-spice crème brulee. | Photos by Mabel Suen

At Lucky Buddha (3701 South Jefferson Avenue; 314-833-4568), chef Rene Cruz offers up his own twist on Asian cuisine, borrowing concepts from tried-and-true traditions and fusing them into his own contemporary creations. His five-spice crème brûlée is a perfect example of this approach, taking a familiar dish and giving it a personal spin.

See also: Lucky Buddha: A New Asian-Fusion Cuisine and Craft-Cocktail Lounge in South City

The dessert begins with a standard custard base of egg yolks, cream and milk. Cruz steeps the decadent blend with star anise, clove, cardamom and vanilla. The slow-cooked custard gets its crispy, caramelized topping from torched raw sugar, lending a satisfying crunch to its velvety interior.

A look at the creamy custard beneath the burnt-sugar shell.
  • A look at the creamy custard beneath the burnt-sugar shell.

While he intends to keep crème brûlée as a staple on the menu, the flavor will rotate frequently. Look for variations including cardamom and orange as well as chai tea in the near future. In addition to the cooked custard, be sure to check out some of the other desserts Cruz is cooking up.

His take on lemon-poppyseed cake, for instance, is a lemongrass-and-basil cake served with lemongrass ice cream. Additional frozen treats made in-house include a rotating selection of fruit sorbets in flavors such as lychee, dragonfruit-raspberry and mango chile -- all made with the chef's unique touch.

Previously on Sugar High: - Amy's Corner Bakeshop's Scones - Vincent Van Doughnut's "Mini Vinnies" - Piccione Pastry's Sfogliatella Riccia - The Feasting Fox's Warm Apple Strudel - I Scream Cake's "I Scream Sammys" - LuciAnna's Pastries' Chocolate-Mousse Cheesecake - Spoon Baking Company's Spoon Cookie - Insomnia Cookies' S'mores Deluxe Cookie - Living Room's Peanut-Butter Chocolate-Chip Cookie - Stimulus Baking Company's Pad-Thai Cupcake - La Bonne Bouchée's Strawberry-Mousseline Cake - Pie Oh My's Pumpkin-Maple Pecan Pie - Annie Moons' Banana-Split Muffins - Cyrano's Carrot Cake - Whitebox Eatery's Cheese Pastry - Comet Coffee's Mousse Cakes - Whisk's Apple-Cinnamon "Pop Tartlets" - The London Tea Room's Blueberry-Lemon Cake - Corner 17's Fluffy Ice - The Fountain on Locust's "Banana Bourbon" Sundae - Vinnie's Pinwheel Baklava - Red Fox Baking & Catering's Lemon Tart - Sugarfire Smokehouse's Crack Pie - Russell on Macklind's Coconut Cake - The Kitchen Sink's Sweet Potato Fries - Giovanni's Kitchen's Panna Cotta Trio - Crepes Etc.'s Crepe Cake - Cafe Ventana's Beignets - Frida's Raspberry-Chocolate Avocado Mousse - India Palace's Gulab Jamun - Melt's "Violet Beauregarde" Waffle - Brevan's Patisserie's "Brendan" - Winslow's Home's Chocolate Cake with Espresso Meringue - La Patisserie Chouquette's Eclair - Black Bear Bakery's Raspberry Oat Bar - Gelateria's London Fog Gelato - 4 Seasons Bakery's German Cheesecake - Libertine's "Candy Bar" - Cleveland-Heath's Old Fashioned Cherry Pie - Schlafly Tap Room and Bottleworks' Sticky Toffee Pudding

We're always looking for some sweet ideas. E-mail the author at mabel.suen@riverfronttimes.com

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