We have nothing against simple combos like peanut butter and chocolate, or Nutella and just about anything else. But a truly decadent sweet is, like sugar itself, refined. “Creating a good dessert is easy, but creating a delicious dessert you can enjoy over and over again takes a bit of finesse,” says Nisha Sidhu, co-owner of Co Co. Sala. When creating her dessert menu, Sidhu balanced high saccharine levels with ingredients like tangy fruits and salty nuts and kept servings relatively small. “Desserts should be as indulgent as possible, while keeping the portion size in moderation. You want to end your meal feeling like you could have just one more bite. That, to me, is when you feel happiest.” Here are four sweets that deliver supremely satisfying sugar highs.

Lemon Meringue Tart
Central by Michel Richard
Michel Richard takes everything you love about fruit — its just-off-the-vine freshness, its tangy finish — and imparts it to his new lemon tart ($10) at Central. “It’s refreshing, it’s nice and it’s an American classic,” says Richard. “And at the same time, there isn’t a pastry chef in France who doesn’t serve one.” Though it’s unlikely they assemble it the way Richard does: He stores the pre-baked, buttery cookie crust at room temperature to keep it as crisp as possible. When it’s time to serve, the chilled curd and meringue are eased on top. Vanilla ice cream and mango and raspberry syrup, served on the side, make this a masterpiece best enjoyed on a hot summer day. 1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202-626-0015; Centralmichelrichard.com. (Federal Triangle)

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gateau
Vermilion’s executive pastry chef, Tiffany MacIsaac, builds her four-layer showstopper ($10) on a thin base of chocolate cake. That’s topped with a hazelnut mousse containing gianduja, a European, Nutella-like chocolate. Next, a section of chocolate ganache and a silky layer of caramel mousse are added. It’s all coated with a chocolate glaze and served with caramel ice cream sprinkled with salt, crushed hazelnuts, crumbled chocolate cookies and shaved cocoa curls. Though the number of elements seems overwhelming, MacIsaac swears this dessert works because “the flavors are all rich, toasty and dark. And the caramel has salt in it, which balances any dessert with nuts.” 1120 King St., Alexandria; 703-684-9669; Vermilionrestaurant.com. (King St.)

Co Co. Grown Up
Co Co. Sala
Can’t decide if you want a dessert that’s hot, cold, soft or crunchy? Don’t bother. The all-encompassing Co Co. Grown Up ($14) at Co Co. Sala has a little something for every palate: There’s a sampling of smooth peanut butter gelato topped with a piece of crispy peanut brittle, a mini chocolate cupcake with mousselike icing, warm bananas Foster and a malted shooter with a touch of rum, served with what we thought was a brown straw. Turns out it was a thin sliver of (what else?) chocolate. “Everything we make at Co Co. is from scratch, including our garnishes,” Sidhu says. “It’s where we have a lot of fun.” 929 F St. NW; 202-347-4265; Cocosala.com. (Metro Center)

Phyllo-Wrapped Cheesecake
Blue Duck Tavern
When you’ve trained under a former White House pastry chef, the expectations are set pretty high. And yet the chef in question — Blue Duck Tavern’s Peter Brett — still impresses with his newest dessert, a phyllo dough-wrapped cheesecake served atop white wine- and vanilla-poached kumquats ($9). The cake is slow-baked with a hint of fresh-squeezed lemon juice to accentuate the tartness of the cream cheese and fruit, and then cooked in two layers of phyllo. It’s served heated, which is unusual for such a dessert. “I don’t think I’ve seen warm cheesecake anywhere before,” says Brett. “We’re an American restaurant, so I try to do classic dishes with a twist.” 1201 24th St. NW; 202-419-6755; Blueducktavern.com. (Foggy Bottom)