On Tuesday, the award-winning pastry chef reopens his avant-garde dessert paradise, taking cues from Bali's local floral.
“Last year we were like, we’re either going to blow it up, or go for it,” says Goldfarb of his decision to invest in his restaurant’s expansion, and in basic equipment like fridges and a Vitamix. But, more importantly, the chef chose to develop landscaping around his dessert and drinks lounge to house dozens of new herbs and fruit trees––like pandan, lemongrass, and galangal––the local flavors that have become Room 4 Dessert’s guiding philosophy.
Goldfarb initially opened Room 4 Dessert fourteen years ago in New York City. But, after a fall-out with business partners, he transplanted his sweets-focused tasting menu concept to Ubud, in central Bali. And while the chef––whose resume counts time spent at Spain’s visionary, modernist restaurant elBulli, past positions alongside Manhattan’s elite, like Masaharu Morimoto, and a James Beard Award for Best Pastry Chef in America––was best known for his techy, avant-garde desserts, once in Bali, due to financial limitations which precluded him for owning the technology to which he was accustomed, Room 4 Dessert morphed to adapt to its surroundings, with desserts increasingly guided by simpler techniques and the local flora.
When Goldfarb launches the next phase of Room 4 Dessert on April 16, the dessert engagement will encompass five times more space than it did last year, yet with half the number of seats: approximately 10,000 square feet both indoors and out, with room for 20 in the main dining room, plus 16 on a covered rear patio.
Goldfarb has reworked Room 4 Dessert’s main dining room to swap a simple bar and bare tables for plush velvet sofas, mahogany wood chairs, silk curtains, and marbles tables. The chef also decided to redesign the space to create room for a new central service area so that guests can see desserts built in action. And while, in the past, Room 4 Dessert offered à la carte dining, the place now proffers just one single tasting menu for $39, with the option to add a $42 cocktail pairing or a $29 non-alcoholic option. Drinks like fermented turmeric beer, and house-made kombucha. Of course Goldfarb is putting his garden to good use, also aromatize innumerable libations using on-site botanicals.
Unlike Room 4 Dessert’s old seating plan in which diners simply sat inside the restaurant, with overflow running onto the back patio, guests now dine through various spaces, while embarking upon a menu divided into three parts: a series of seven small savory snacks, followed by seven main desserts, then seven small final bites.
Guests begin by entering Room 4 Dessert through the North Garden on the restaurant’s right side, starting with one drink and a surprise series of bites, including Aloe LDT, a ceviche of aloe vera flavored with leche de tigre; the dish incorporates Goldfarb’s kombucha-imbued take on the citrus-based sauce traditionally used in Peruvian culture to cure fish.
From there, patrons walk through the kitchen into the main dining room for “entrée” desserts and composed plates, such as a cardamom-spiked caramel and black tea brûlée. Beyond new dishes, Goldfarb has woven in a few of his signatures, like a dish he calls "Whiskey, Torture, Turgenev" that's made from vanilla gelato and a frozen whiskey mousse, paired with caramelized pineapple, tarragon oil, and popped sorghum.
The adventure ends in the South Garden, which hugs the restaurant's left half, for petit fours. Concluding bites could include marshmallows made from cashew fruit and clarified cashew milk, or a chocolate-hazelnut bonbon inspired by the classic Ferrero Rocher. “It’s now like this little restaurant inside an enormous garden, which is spectacular,” says the chef.
A very busy 2018, thanks to a boost from his appearance on hit Netflix series Chef’s Table, along with the release of his cookbook, Room 4 Dessert, afforded Goldfarb the funds to grow his business. And while today Goldfarb leans more on plants than advanced kitchen tech, one wouldn’t necessarily know it from looking at his elegant plates.
In Room 4 Dessert’s original pastry kitchen, “there was no Kitchen-Aid, no juicer, no blender, no ice cream machine …” explains the chef. And despite his revamp, Room 4 Dessert still celebrates its early roots. Yes, the restaurant now has more of the basic equipment is has long-needed, like fridges and straight-up more rooms to create, but the bounty of Bali’s incredible farms, and Room 4 Dessert’s very own garden, is now readily in focus. Says Goldfarb, “to come get your [own] turmeric is pretty fucking cool.”