Poland-born Tomasz Chrzaszcz (his last name means “beetle”) moved to New York in 2006. Not long after, he stopped in at P*ong to visit his brother, a bartender, and left with a busboy job. At 22, Chrzaszcz now oversees chef-owner Pichet Ong’s cocktail and wine program between English classes. Before he begins to pursue his photography studies, we asked him how he got promoted so fast and what P*ong plans for its couple-heavy clientele on Valentine’s Day.
Coming from Poland, did you think the dessert-bar concept was strange?
It was a little strange. It was really original to me. I had never seen this kind of restaurant and I was amazed by the way it looked and the food and dessert.
Where did you learn about beverage service?
I learned everything here. Pichet helps me with connecting the flavors. He has a really great knowledge of flavors.
What are some of your special cocktails?
We had one with rhubarb-infused vodka for summer. The newest cocktail on our winter menu is a mimosa with passion-fruit juice. We have a few special Valentine’s cocktails, like cachaça with Meyer lemon; we don’t have a name for it yet.
As a dessert bar, has P*ong been especially hit by the recession?
We have fewer customers than we used to, but we still have a really nice clientele. We used to sell many more tasting menus. Now people are ordering à la carte and they don’t drink as much as they used to. They just come for dessert and coffee when they would have at least two desserts and dessert wine.
What have you done to attract more diners?
We lowered prices and have more prix fixe menus. We used to have only ten courses and now we have eight, ten, four, and three. They can choose our most expensive dishes: short rib, foie gras, the cheese plate.
What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?
We are already fully booked on Valentine’s Day. We have only bar seats left. But the menu is available Friday through Sunday, the whole weekend. I think it was $95 last year and it’s $78 this year. We had eight courses and now we have seven courses or a $44 five-course cheese and dessert tasting.
What sort of ingredients make the special menu romantic?
Cherries, passion fruit, chocolate, gold; they’re very romantic. Our food is beautiful and tasty, like food art.