Ever since the opening of No.4 Blake street, I have seen many positive reviews that swear by the quality of the food this place churns out. Having missed the Press Invitation on launch day, it was safe to say that I felt rather down to know how I have missed out on such a sensational event. But all is not doom and gloom as the day has come where I can have my chance to try out the offerings of No. 4 Blake street. It goes without saying that I was super excited.
Starting with the bread, it came in two flavors which was the plain bread and the olive bread. To get the best of the butter I opted for the plain one. When it came to the texture, I found it to be a little dense and not as fluffy as I hoped it to be. Plus that lingering sourness after each bite made it hard to appreciate the butter. And while the trio of butter looked amazing whilst seated on the plate like that, it was ultimately the truffle and caviar one that had enough flavor to be eaten with the white bread. With 5 courses coming up, I only had the plain one and left the olive one in the capable hands of my dining companions. For the olive bread, they commented that it was a little over salted and hence, it was more suited to the orange zest and the other one, which I am guessing was pistachio. Not the best breads in town for sure.
The amuse bouche for the night was a shot of turnip froth with beef jus and a side of crumbled tendon. In this dish, I found that every element despite complementing each other, did not work by itself. The turnip froth was mildly bitter and the jus extremely salty. But when eaten together, it pronounced a good concoction along with the chewy tendon covered in a crisp batter. Though not bad as a whole, I was not sure whether it built a good enough first impression. It felt lacking the in your face factor. Needed something to lift the whole mood.
As for our appetizers, the first one was the buttered yabbies, blood orange gel, “boudin noir”, purple potato crisp.Buttered yabbies, perfection. Sweet, moist and perfectly cooked. Fruit and seafood? Acceptable though some of my dining companions found the orange gel a tad too strong. Then comes the “boudin noir” or the black pudding. So ignorantly did we order this dish without trying to decipher its ingredients. For me, having the pudding which was made out of blood was very physical, bold, heavy and to a further extent uninviting. A massive clash of identities which I did not like. Fruits, and seafood for me translates to foods which are light, fresh and naturally sweet without much need for too much. Anyways, this for me was a case of too many things on the plate.
Seared squab, green buckwheat, crisp apple, endive.Whilst the meat was well-cooked for a small bird, it suffered from a massive salt overdose. The sautéed buckwheat sauce was just overly seasoned and killed the squab in an instant. Definitely something which could have been easily outstanding if not for the salt overdose.
The last appetizer on the table was the Venison pie & fresh tartare, quail yolk, petite salade.The venison pie was definitely not my favourite. The pie crust felt doughy and the taste was over all very mundane because it was bland. Paired with the liquor gel, it was an even harder bite to swallow. But its pairing just on the other end of the plate was out of this world. The tartare was fresh and the use of a small yolk to sit on the tartare was just sensational. It tasted fresh and light despite being so very meaty. In the end I found it funny how this was paired. One was so very good such that it was to die for but on the other end was a sad looking slice of pie. I was bombed. No idea what happened right there.
After the appetizer, No. 4 Blake street adds a personal touch to the dinner by introducing a course called Al Dente, a pasta course to showcase the chef’s best skills with pasta. One of the lovely things that night was how we had our dietary requirements met by the helpful staff. Very considerate! Before serving this course, the waitress reconfirmed that some of my friends were not able to eat shellfish. For them, their Al Dente course for the night was a Gnocchi ala Funghi.The gnocchi in No. 4 Blake street is flawless. Fluffy little pillows of pasta made this a winner course. But the mushroom sauce was a tad too salty. For XL who ordered the squab and had this after, her eyes was seen rolling in salt-coma. Even Jim felt so too. However, for the rest of the table who was lucky enough to have the crab gnocchi, it was simply fantastic. The crab was sweet and the tomatoes ripe. The bisque was super rich and for some, it might be a tad too strong. But I like strong flavors and this for me, was the perfect accompaniment for those fluffy gnocchi. This was my sister’s highlight of the dinner at No. 4 Blake Street.Gnocchi with Crab, Tomatoes and a Seafood Bisque
With the mains, we were spoilt for choices. There was fish, beef, and a whole other variety of proteins. But upon hearing how the duck was their signature dish, my mind was decided. Duck pave, smoked breast, duck fat Brussels sprout, sprout kraut, chestnut veloute.Seeing the ingredients, you would expect a few things. A slightly crisp duck, salty at the same time and hope for the best that the Brussels sprouts has not gone grey so it all works together. The chestnut typically I would expect it to be naturally sweet with the sprout kraut bringing some acidity. But was it what I expected? Well the duck pave for me was right. I thought it could be a tad more tender on the inside but no. Small issue. The Brussels sprouts came out green but a tad bitter. Bad on that, but it’s a natural trait. For me, the biggest problem was the strip of ? running across the plate. It was thick, bland and with the chestnut seasoning left minimal, I found that the flavors of the dish were very light and felt lacking as the thick strip of puree that ran across the plate killed the dish. Textural wise it hit all the right notes but without the right flavors, satisfaction was rather low and left me wanting for more to be done.
Ranger valley beef flank, textures of parsnip, candied kumquats, brandy braise Textures of parsnip? Checked. Tasty beef? It left those who ordered this wondering. After a spell of strong salty flavors from the start, it left them wondering where did it go this time around. But the beef itself was cooked to perfection which gives the middle a beautiful pinkish red. Over all, not bad.
Pan fried Coral Trout, smoked sardine pate, mussels, Chenin emulsionA special touch when the mussels are topped on an edible shell, doused with wine emulsion. The boys liked this bit but found the trout a little tough with the sardine pate a little mushy. Over all? They still thought it was nice.
Palate cleanser was a table pleaser. Refreshing :)!
As for our dessert, we worked our way through several of their offerings. For me, I had the fresh pear, Pedro, pistachio sponge, wild figs, bay and white choc sorbetThe mild bitterness of the Pedro put a mature touch to this dish. Its presentation was sophisticated but mixing it all up together gave it a pleasurable bite. The springy pistachio sponge went well with the aromatic sorbet and Pedro mousse. Crunchy cocoa powder and fig matched the textures this nicely. Not a love at the first sight, but it was something that I learned to like and love spoon by spoon.
Winter Jar: Tonka bean and vanilla panna cotta, burnt orange jelly, malted crumb, cinnamon ice creamA moment of suspense arose when the waitress said “I will be back to finish the dish.” It made us wonder for a moment about what was going to happen. She then comes back to spray the perfume which sets the scene for the winter jar. If you are a big fan of spices you would be blown. This dessert has a strong cinnamon and nutmeg flavor from the Tonka bean and the ice cream. Good balance of flavors but definitely not a simple man’s dish. The girls who were more used to sweet, fruity desserts or plain chocolaty desserts found this a little hard to finish. Funnily, all three of them ordered the same dessert. @@!
Passion fruit parfait, chocolate gel, passion fruit caviar & curd, chocolate shardsJim’s choice of dessert for the night was the textures of passion fruit. The passion fruit came in the form of a crisp, a mouse, caviar, dust and something else. I officially voted his dessert the best one of the night. I voted for its fruitiness and lightness as well as a balanced sweetness courtesy of the rich bitter chocolate. Definitely a winner this one. He too loved his dessert but wished that the chocolate was sweet instead of bitter. I guess that is what you would expect from a sweet tooth hahaha.
Rhubarb, white chocolate cremeux, orange ash, blood orangeThis was easily the night’s second best dessert if all you want for the night is something simple, refreshing and not too cloying. The rhubarb is a natural sweetheart and when used in desserts, have one of the best flavors of all time. The white chocolate cremeux was creamy and not overly sweet. For fishman who ordered this, he found the pairing just spot on. He truly enjoyed his dessert!
At the end of the night, the satisfaction around the table seemed somewhat mixed. A few of us had a good time while a few people, in particular, my sister found the food here rather average. It is true even for XL who had a salty pairing all the way till her main. To the extent that at one point, it felt rather sickening. From the olive bread to the squab followed by the mushroom pasta, it was all too much salt. The appetizers here were definitely not a strong point but as the meal progressed, things started changing and I found the desserts here to be outstanding along with their pasta course, the Al Dente. But is it truly worth the hype? I find it rather questionable. It was OK and with the bad start evened by the good end, it falls right in between. Even then, it really depended on what you chose. On my side, I found that my main had the most potential to be the game changer. It was nice to see all the different things on there but it could be a tad simpler with more seasoning in the veloute to counter balance that bland strip of rich puree. Even for the yabbies, it definitely could do without the black pudding. Sometimes, less is really more.