There are so many things I loved about No. 4 Blake Street. So many things set me up for high expectations. Even if I considered myself critical of food in general, my friends were even less impressed than I was. There is so much potential – so much skill was used in the artistry of presentation, the service was impeccable, the atmosphere was lovely and the experience was great other than the huge blowfly that kept landing on Prithi’s glass. No one bothered to swat that fly or rid of it - despite watching our table wave our arms around frantically! Wt?
I love chef Tom’s Tom’s kitchen and I think he has done rustic dining well. Luckily for many of No. 4′s fans, I can only see Chef Tom doing better.
We started out with a bottle of Argentinian Pinot Noir – the Siesta ($84)- which as a blend of red and white would suit most dishes well.
The full degustation is at $90 and includes an amuse bouche, entrée (your choice), Al dente, main (your choice), palate cleanser and finally dessert (your choice). You may not want dessert and that is fine – that goes for $70. If you are able to hold your alcohol while tasting the food, pairing is at $45 or $30 for the menu without dessert.
Bread and Butter
An elegant trio of butter was presented – truffle, red pepper and olive oil. You could choose an olive or white bread to go along with it. Unlike Queen of bad timing’s experience, I didn’t receive a warm white roll. Mine was pretty cold. Everyone else went with the olive bread and judging from their second helping, it must have been nice! My favourite butter was the olive oil – it was surprisingly tastier than the other butters. It was also smooth and spread so willingly around my loaf.
The teaser was a confit duck, coconut tapioca, chilli and ginger air and dehydrated lychee. I heard a variety of wows and mmm(s) coming from the ladies. Indeed, the amuse bouche promised an exciting meal ahead. The confit duck was salty but that was balanced out by the cool, sweet and smooth coconut tapioca and surprisingly spicy chilli and ginger foam. I was careful after hearing Leanne cough from the spiciness. haha. Finishing off with the dehydrated lychee was a treat because who does not love lychee? I loved the texture too, a little bit of crunchy sweetness with a sticky end.
Entrée 1: Exmouth Scallops, bone marrow custard, textures of raspberry
The scallops were lovely and fresh. I also enjoyed the crisp edges. Shini who ordered the same thing said hers were a bit too burnt. Oopsie. I guess with custard on the dish, you would have expected the scallops to be really soft and succulent instead of the pan-fried crisp variety. Regardless, I enjoyed it but I can also see where Shini is coming from. The textures of raspberry were fresh, reduced (sauce) and jelly (which really reminded me of an Uncle Toby’s roll up hehe). The texture of the jelly was just that, sticky and chewy and probably fun. So, I would leave the jelly for last unless you want your teeth sticking while you try to swallow your scallops.
The reason I chose this is because I really like bone marrow. The custard in a bone was rich in texture yet mild in flavour like you would expect of marrow but it is now in a firm and slightly eggy pudding. While I could not fault each ingredient individually, did I think the flavours matched? I thought the custard and scallops managed to find each other’s tune but the raspberry (especially the roll up) was a little out-of-place.
Entrée 2: Goat’s cheese ‘Gnocchi’, aromatic oils, baby herbs, borage blossom, tomato water.
This was Prithi’s choice – which I personally thought was really nice. The problem might have been the expectation of gnocchi made with potato and flour – hence the goat cheese shaped like gnocchi would have been perceived as too strong. If you, however, expect little lumps of goat cheese, you will find this quite delightful. The ’gnocchi’ is slightly dense and slightly stretchy in your mouth as you work through it. It went incredibly well with the tomato water, which was wonderfully flavourful with it lightly scented and flavoured by the sweet borage blossom and herbs. This, to me, seems to be the best entrée out of all we have chosen – in fact, probably the best dish I had tasted tonight.
Entrée 3: Butter poached yabbies, blood orange gel, boudin noir, purple potato crisp
Beautifully presented. This was the other choice I battled with in my head. I love yabbies, they are sweet and amazing. Black pudding is also a love of mine – and this was ‘surprisingly subtle’ as Leanne puts it. The ‘pasty, melt in your mouth smoothness’ went well with the crispy potato. If it were to be your first time trying boudin noir, this would be a good place to start.
Al Dente – Saffron Risotto, bitter chocolate, chervil, white anchovies
All the girls loved it. I couldn’t make out the bitter chocolate but the truly al dente (cooked to a nice dense bite) saffron risotto was smoothly rich and seasoned with anchovies.
Main 1: Chicken stuffed with Perigord truffle, summer corn, popcorn, pickled shimeiji, porcini foam, mushroom paper
The chicken was moist albeit a little bland so eating it with the wonderfully tasty porcini foam was a must. The mushroom paper also tasted like essence of mushroom crisps. The corn and popcorn didn’t add too much in terms of flavour except a crunchy freshness. I am guessing the chicken breast was rolled up in wrap and poached sous vide style hence the perfect circles. This cooking style also makes the meat look somewhat strange to some. It was commented that it looked like deli meat/canned meat ( and might have even tasted like it). No one else was a fan.
Main 2: King George Whiting, watermelon blanket, liquorice and chamomile glass, orange snow
This dish is supposed to be No. 4′s signature dish – so both L and S ordered it but for them, it turned out to be a disappointment. I did try some of the Whiting and agreed w S that it tasted like my chicken! Perhaps it was poached in the same stock, perhaps everything tastes like chicken at the end of the day. The watermelon blanket was a thin sweet jelly which seemed odd with the lightly cooked whiting. I think the taste and texture of the silky watermelon blanket scared P. The chamomile film was quite special but the orange snow did nothing for the dish. I had to remind them that it was orange as the girls were guessing it might be some sort of egg yolk. It did look like crumbled egg yolk.. It had no flavour. I don’t think anyone liked this at all.
Main 3: Seared duck breast, pencil leeks, poached plum, celery leaves
P loves duck and so she had thoroughly enjoyed her meal. It was served on a bed of puffed wild rice which offset the saltness of the duck. She liked the poached plum, the leeks, everything but she did ask ala My Kitchen Rules style, ’ Where’s the sauce?’.
Palate Cleanser – Elderflower liquor, Pear sorbet on compressed apples
How yummy are compressed apples? They look like little cubes of jellied apples but were actually crunchy. They went beautifully with the pear sorbet (love the delicate pear flavour…) and elderflower liquor. mmm. I remember the distinct mashed pear texture as well. It was a lovely sorbet.
Dessert 1: Textures of Passionfruit, White basil ganache, mango, salted sesame, coconut sago
Coconut sago is an old favourite. I mean, I’m Asian right, so I must like my coconut sago. Here, coconut sago is used to blend out the extremely acidic passionfruit glass but they did not quite go together. The salted sesame was pretty yummy on its own but I would have prefered it with chocolate. The mango was sugared and jellied. I think the white chewy basil ganache was probably the best part of it all. However, putting it all together, it was all a disastrous misfit. It looked beautiful though – and I guess with such advanced sophistication in presentation, I expected a lot more in taste. The ying and yang just wasn’t there.
Dessert 2: Chocolate Garden, Valrhona chocolate mousse, salted peanut, dacquoise
I did not try this but I wish I did. P said the dirt almost made her think she was eating dirt but it got tastier and yummier as she dug deeper. Everything looked like they would have matched. The crunchy crumbs with the soft mousse (although it did look like it was melted as P mixed it all up.) and salted peanuts. I had a bad case of dessert envy.
Regardless, we had a great girls catch up. Perhaps we will stick to No. 4′s high tea and breakfast menu.