There’s a new Japanese restaurant south of the river. Four Degree recently opened in St George’s Wharf and I’ve seen and read good things about it on social media.
I wanted to love it.
But did I?
A “Japanese restaurant with a European twist”, the place comes across as a restaurant cum bar and home to the UK’s first Macallan Whisky lounge. There’s plenty of things that could go right there, for the combination of sushi and whisky is something that makes me rather happy.
I liked the interiors. Walking in, you can tell that there’s a certain vibe the place is trying to exude. It seemed like a spot where you meet with friends to up your pre-game and have dainty dishes before you set off for hedonistic activities. We went on a Saturday night, just before things got busier. The clientele is a mix of “young’uns and good’uns” – some dressed to the nines for a big night out whilst some dressed to impress for a quality evening.
So far, so good.
Chicken kara-age (£9.60) is always good to start with, because really and truly, is there anything as gastronomically satisfying as biting into crunchy fried chicken? Four Degree’s offering was good enough, with the crispy coating heftily seasoned and the meat succulent and well cooked. This was reminiscent of my favourite Chisou‘s kara-age. So a decent start, it was.
Next up were the crispy wonton tacos (£12). I had high hopes for this dish, thinking these would be similar to Sosharu’s temaki. The menu said these deep fried wonton skin came with hand pulled duck leg meat and miso, fish tartar, caviar and avocado salsa.
And fair enough they did. But I thought each taco would be layered with those ingredients, instead of one ingredient per taco.
Frankly, this was quite disappointing and one-dimensional.
Trying to rein our sashimi appetites, we opted for the nozomi (£20). The usual suspects of salmon, tuna and yellow tail were presented beautifully. Both the hamachi and tuna tasted absolutely stunning, with the freshness of the seafood shining through. However, the salmon slices were curiously divided by slivers of lemon. Whilst this was aesthetically pleasing, the middle part of the fish were unfortunately cured in the fruit’s natural juice.
Disappointed with the moriawase, but believing in second chances, I ordered the salmon sashimi a la carte (£12) which was heaps better. I would’ve preferred it if they didn’t roll up two slices with shiso, as I’m quite partial to this leaf’s flavour, but all in all the fish was fresh and flavoursome.
I originally wanted to order the king crab with caviar and avocado roll, however they didn’t have it so I asked for the “spicy tuna and salmon roll” instead. Curiously, the server said we had to choose whether we wanted spicy tuna or spicy salmon as the menu was not quite accurate. It was either or – you don’t get two types in one roll. Boohoo.
So we went for the soft shell crab roll instead (£12). It was just okay. I was, perhaps, a bit too bummed about the grammatical/misleading error on the menu to care much about this one.
The black cod miso (£33.60) was rather substantial. I liked that the fish was meaty and big enough to soak in the miso marinade because it was slightly on the sweeter side. Personally, I think a bit of charring could’ve given this dish a more robust taste, but it was still delicious and the fish was nicely cooked.
My shining star of the night was the baby spare ribs (£12.60). Caramelised in a thick, sweet sauce, the meat was absolutely fall-off-the-bone tender. It had the right amount of fat and a wonderful kick from hansho peppers and chilli. I happily devoured this with hot steamed rice. It was comfort food, and a wonderful welcome amidst all the other dishes we’ve had.
I was ready to roll, but I thought I might as well try one of the desserts. I went for the banana miso (£9). Served in a chawanmushi pot, it’s essentially bananas layered with caramel miso sauce, and banana ice cream topped with black crumble. I actually liked it. Possibly one of the simpler desserts on the menu, but pretty straightforward and a good portion.
Verdict for Four Degree
I really wanted to love it. I had high hopes, but left slightly underwhelmed. I can’t fault the service, but admittedly there were things on the menu that could’ve been explained better (ie the tacos and the ‘and’ vs ‘or’ issues). I thought the sashimi faux pas was forgivable on the basis of them hopefully not mixing citrus in the fish slabs in the future – as the fish was fresh anyway.
The bill came up to £170 for two (with a glass of wine each). I can’t help but compare it to what I usually pay at my trusty Chisou in Mayfair (almost half!) for about the same amount of food.
Four Degree could be better, but til then, the hunt for good Japanese this side of the river continues.
2C St George Wharf, London SW8
Ave spend pp: £80