Chicago's Valhalla Restaurant Serves Literally Infinite Desserts

If you've ever dreamed of having the ability to feast on an endless dessert menu, get thee to Chicago, as your dream can now be realized. At Valhalla, a restaurant located in the Time Out Market, an 11-course tasting menu priced at $188 comes complete with a dessert option marked only with an infinity symbol. 

Headed by Stephen Gillanders, Valhalla burst onto the scene in late 2022 and has already received glowing reviews from publications like the Chicago Tribune and Condé Nast Traveler, with both reviews calling out the sweet and savory aspects of the menu. While Gillanders runs the dinner side of the restaurant, the never-ending dessert program is headed by pastry chef Tatum Sinclair. If diners have invested in the tasting menu, Sinclair will bring personalized dessert items to them, providing new treats as long as the plate is cleared each time. The textures and components of these customized treats vary, but the sizes usually remain petite. This begs the question: how does Sinclair pull off creating so many unique bites of dessert? 

The secret behind an endless dessert menu

To kick off the superb dessert experience, Sinclair asks that diners inform her of when they're ready for the dessert course, and what sort of flavor profile suits them best. In an interview with Food52, Sinclair noted that this flavor request can be extremely broad, running the gamut of the vague "something fruity" to the hyper-specific request for freshly-made hot sauce ice cream via liquid nitrogen. The chef's philosophy is simple, as she stated to Food52: "The idea is to never say no." Once the flavor choice is placed, she then applies the adaptation to one of 20 dessert formulas. What dessert format you receive is up to Sinclair, and that designation changes day-to-day. The dish you get isn't going to be your basic crème brûlée, either.

You may get a sliver of cheesecake served with a dollop of coconut rose hibiscus mousse or a ricotta bomboloni can be adorned with mango curd, candied kumquat, and a bit of lemon balm. The base elements, like the cheesecake and fried bomboloni, are already baked and ready to serve. But the flavor accouterments, like the fruit curd or floral mousse get added right before serving, customizing the experience. Celebrating a birthday? That too can be incorporated into the infinite dessert, with Sinclair frosting a miniature cake with a chocolate placard marked with "Happy Birthday!" She'll only stop rolling out the different variants when the diner becomes too full to proceed. 

How to set the dessert record

So how far can you push this infinite selection of delicacies catered specifically for your own unique palate? Not too many diners are able to push the infinite dessert theme too far beyond the 20 existing formulas, as even in small portions, these numerous decadent bites add up. One pitfall is making the mistake of ordering one of Sinclair's a la carté dessert items in addition to the infinity options. The desserts offered on the menu are much larger than the infinity bites. This is easier said than done, as it's awfully tempting to order some of these famous dishes, including Sinclair's signature black and white marbled pavlova and a gooey chocolate chip cookie that features an ethical chocolate she designed with Cacao Barry. Still, inserted between the many bite-sized desserts, these grand-scale portions fill up the diner fast.  

In addition to that, picky eaters should be wary of the infinity dessert. If you dislike a type of dessert and refuse to eat it, you can't just skip it and continue with another round of desserts. It's all or nothing. Of course, the point isn't to treat this option as a way to win an amateur competitive eating event. Sinclair and the culinary team behind Valhalla are looking to expand flavor horizons and create things that wow and surprise visitors. With that philosophy in mind, you can make the most of the uniquely sweet experience.