The churning vats of chocolate, cocoa powders in a trifecta of shades, and towers of nougat can only be likened to the magical world of Willy Wonka. Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man opened at 5 p.m. yesterday to ecstatic crowds of sugar-hungry passerby, with friendly servers doling out free samples of caramelized pecans coated in nougat and cocoa powder, and tables in the cafeteria-sized dining room quickly filling up.

The first American branch of Israeli pastry chef Max Brenner (with other locations in Israel, Singapore, Australia, and the Philippines), is part of Brenner's mission to create a new chocolate culture, not just a tasty product. Referring to his relationship with chocolate as a "love story," Brenner showcases an impressive repetoire of sweet treats, from meltiing marshmallow crepes and warm chocolate soup to danish with butter and melted chocolate cream and an endless stream of creme fraiche, fresh strawberries, nutty pralines.


Separate, but no less indulgent menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and sweets introduce chocolate to every part of the day while the drinks menu offers choctails like the "Cookishake" and the "Chocolate granita." Overwhelming, but fixating, Max Brenner puts magic back into the candy shop and can make any visitor feel as though it's perfectly normal -- in fact, the only option -- to eat chocolate at every meal.



Max Brenner is located at 841 Broadway (between 13th & 14th), (212) 388-0030. A second store is scheduled to open in about a month at 141 2nd Avenue (at 9th).