Note: Room 4 Dessert closed in June 2007, after a spat between Will Goldfarb and his investors. Goldfarb originally stated that he would re-open elsewhere, but for now he seems to be content with consulting engagements without having a place of his own.
Will Goldfarb has made a name as the mad scientist of desserts, cooking up kooky but delightful sugar rushes at such restaurants as Papillon and Cru. Neither the Times nor the Post liked his creations at Cru, but he took some time off, had a baby, and resurfaced with his own dessert bar in SoHo, Room 4 Dessert. And this time, the Times was smitten.
The wonderful thing about it is that Goldfarb doesn’t have to subsume his vision to somebody else’s concept. The drawback is that diners have to get there from someplace else. So far, it seems to be working. My friend and I dropped by after dinner Friday night at nearby Peasant, only to be told there was a 40-minute wait at 10:00 p.m. The next night, after a dismal meal at the much-farther-away Trestle on Tenth, we gave it one more try, and luckily there were a couple of seats free.
The restaurant occupies a long, narrow storefront. Signage is subtle, and you could easily miss it. Inside, it’s probably 100 feet deep, but so narrow that an NBA player could stretch his arms and touch both side walls. All seating is at the bar. On the menu, which changes regularly, every category begins with “Room 4,” as in “Room 4 Dessert Glass,” “Room 4 Alcohol,” “Room 4 Sweet Wine,” and so forth.
Desserts at R4D have funky names like “indecent proposal” and “laissez pear.” Individual desserts are $10 each, while tasting plates of four selections are $14 each. My friend tried “choc ’n’ awe,” a four-dessert tasting of white chocolate cake, cacau mousse, sucree safranee with chocolate cream, and chocolate ice cream. I had bites of each; the mousse and the cake were particularly decadent.
I had “virtual mauritius,” which came with a brown sugar creamy, little pieces of green mango, a iogurt biscuit, and whipped frozen carrot puree. (I am using Goldfarb’s spellings in each case.) The connection to Mauritius was lost on me, but the “iogurt biscuit” was the best of the bunch, closely followed by the creamy brown sugar. The pieces of green mango were cut too small and were rather annoying.
There’s a variety of wine and hard liquor pairings recommended for every dessert. I had a drink called mar.ti.ni ($15), which is what it sounds like, and my friend had champagne ($14). Other drinks have names like “who says cali can’t age” and “hey man, nice priorat.”
Goldfarb prepares most of the desserts himself. When he came over to serve us, I introduced myself by my eGullet handle, and we had a nice chat about the restaurant. When I told him we were turned away the night before, he replied wryly, “You should have complained to the owner.” We talked about his baby girl too, and he brought over a stack of photos. Later, he comped us a “tootsie roll” (warm chcolate praline mousse, truffled streusel ‘sex panther’, raisins, and tequilla fluid), which was terrific. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Room 4 Dessert is an expensive indulgence. With two tasting plates at $14 each, and drinks at $14–15, the bill was $57 before tax and tip. For the record, individual desserts have gone up by $1, and tasting plates $2, since the Times review came out in February. The liquor is particularly expensive. We found it a luxury well worth it—but a luxury nonetheless.
Room 4 Dessert (17 Cleveland Place between Spring and Kenmare Streets, SoHo)