DISCLOSURE: I work for Drew Nieporent, and most of this dinner was comped.
My Nobu visits are usually downtown; although I admire David Rockwell's design uptown, the place is too noisy and claustrophobic for me. But the food last night was so spectacular it didn’t matter.
We were four, and opted for omakase. Our server’s offer to bring dishes new to us was eagerly accepted, with two requests: some uni for me, and the shrimp tempura in creamy spicy sauce for my husband, Mr. Meat ‘n’ Taters.
Sorry there are no pictures, because every course was visually stunning, but after giving Mr. M'n'T a hard time for using his cell phone, I couldn’t really whip out a camera.
Here’s what we ate:
- Four perfect Kumamoto oysters nestled in crushed ice: two topped with Maui onion salsa, two with a tart lime sorbet and a bit of caviar. Mr. M'n'T doesn’t like raw oysters. He flipped over these.
- Chutoro sashimi, three pieces with a light soy-based sauce and a pile of microgreens – celery, I believe. The vegetal greens were lovely against the medium-fatty fish.
- Spanish mackerel jalapeño, in a fairly spicy vinaigrette: the fish had a sliver of black skin, unlike the pearly gray of saba, and the flesh was slightly opaque from a citrus bath.
- An enormous square white platter bearing three treasures: 1) anago tempura, the first time I’ve eaten eel this way. Moist, flaky white meat, delicately crunchy crust, a pile of curry salt (made with sel gris, I think) for dipping; 2) quartered dayboat scallops, seared and set atop a bit of mayonnaise on a lotus root chip, garnished with pea shoots and bits of black hijiki; Washyu beef gyoza, so intensely beefy they tasted almost of aged cheese, with a sesame ponzu dipping sauce.
- Rock shrimp tempura in creamy spicy sauce. I could happily eat this every day.
- Seared salmon with heirloom tomatoes, the least exciting dish of the evening: the fish was fine, but the crisp skin was impossible to eat with chopsticks and the heirlooms were lacking in flavor.
- Lamb chops with anticucho sauce: these were quite large and pleasantly gamy, more like mutton than lamb. The bones had been frenched and wrapped with a strip of pumpkin skin, which made it easy to pick up the chops and swipe them through the sauce. Carnivore’s delight.
- Sushi: chutoro, baby yellowtail, fluke, salmon, and orange clam, each pristine, presented very simply with no garnish but the rice. I got another plate with three pieces of uni. Sigh...
- A clear golden broth holding nuggets of lobster, kernels of sweet corn and chopped chives.
- Desserts from pastry chef Gabriele Riva (an El Bulli alum) are precise and clean-flavored. Of the four, only two really sang to me: a bowl of chocolate “couscous,” softer in texture than cookie crumbs, with a soft saffron cream, a scoop of peanut butter ice cream and a cardamom tuile; and a dazzling coconut rice pudding, served in a small brazier with instructions to eat it when the pudding started to bubble. It was barely sweet, accompanied by an intense citrus mousse and a scattering of popped grains. There was a hint of pine in the flavor – an amazing dessert.
I prefer sake with this food but my uncle wanted wine. The Cakebread sauvignon blanc and Sequoia Grove cabernet he ordered worked surprisingly well.
Matt Hoyle, the chef, was second in command at Nobu London, and made us a marvelous lunch when we were there a few years ago. He's even better now.