What do you get when you cross Nobuyuki Matsuhisa and Robert De Niro? Nobu restaurant of course! The Nobu branded restaurant exists all over the world, from the Bahamas to Budapest to, more recently, Perth. Situated in the newly renovated Crown entertainment complex, Nobu brings South American flavours together with more traditional Japanese cooking styles and techniques. In his earlier years, Matsuhisa spent time living in Peru and Argentina, where he developed his unique fusion before moving back to Japan.
When we first walked in, the waiter took us to our seat near the sushi bar. After a few minutes siting there, we noticed a couple of familiar faces seated right behind us at the bar–Pete Evans of My Kitchen Rules and Alastair McLeod, who regularly makes appearances on Ready Steady Cook. I would have loved to have sat with them to see what they had to say about the food, but alas, I decided to leave them in peace to enjoy their dinner
The menu style was quite typical of a Japanese restaurant, with dishes grouped into different types. Cold dishes, hot dishes, sashimi, tempura, soups, salads. Most of us on the table hadn’t visited Nobu before, so we decided to order a bunch of dishes to share. The waiter first approached us to take our drink orders, where we asked him to recommend a sake. We ordered a bottle of the Hokusetsu Junmai served warm, which was certainly one of the nicer versions of the Japanese drink that I’ve had.
The first to arrive at the table were the Nobu style tacos. It didn’t take much thought to see the Central American influence on this dish, with tacos traditionally coming from Mexico. I had the Waygu filled taco, topped with a spicy mustard-like sauce. It was very tasty and enjoyable to eat, and certainly a textural delight with the brittle glass-like taco shell filled with the softer beef.
The second dish was the mixed seafood ceviche, another obviously South American dish. Ceviche is a Peruvian citrus-cured seafood dish, typically spiced with aji peppers. On his website, Matsuhisa has a recipe for his ceviche dressing, which includes aji paste, lemon juice, soy sauce, yuzu juice (a citrus fruit from East Asia), garlic and ginger–clearly with influences from the traditional ceviche and Nobu’s Asian twist. I did enjoy this dish, however the citrus was not at all subtle. Any more lemon and it would have been bordering inedible. Luckily we did share the dish amongst the four of us, so the lemon overload felt more like a palette cleanser rather than an acid mouth wash. I think some people would struggle a bit with this dish.
We couldn’t go to Nobu without ordering at least one signature dish, so we thought we’d give the Black Cod Miso a try. To make this dish, succulent pieces of black cod are marinated in the Nobu-Style Saikyo Miso sauce, which is made by mixing and heating sake, mirin, miso paste and sugar. The cod is left to marinate for 2 to 3 days, so it is quite a time intensive dish. The result is quite remarkable though: some of the most texturally pleasing fish I have ever eaten, with a delicious glaze. For me it was a winner, for two reasons:
- The texture was truly melt-in-the-mouth
- The flavour of the cod was still centre-stage
When it comes to fresh seafood, I am a proponent of letting it speak for itself–everything added to the dish should be a mere accompaniment to enhance the taste of the ocean. Nobu succeeded at doing this. Black Cod is sometimes called butterfish, and it is not at all hard to understand why. Being a somewhat fatty deep-water fish, the texture was just pure bliss–flaky, buttery, and not at all tough. This is one that I might try to emulate at home if I can locate some high quality cod.
We had a few other dishes–the New Style Wagyu, New Style Scallop Sashimi, Pork Belly with Miso Caramel, and the Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño–and then followed with dessert. We ordered the Salted Caramel Parfait, the Chocolate Mousse with Ginger and Pumpkin, and the Nobu Cheesecake. The cheesecake was outright one of the best I’ve tasted! I do love a good cheesecake, however this was far from the usual heavy–almost cloyingly overpowering–cheesecake that most places serve. The Nobu style cake was a lot lighter and more subtle, accompanied by a citrus sorbet, and I would certainly order it in the future.
The word parfait is French, and literally translates to the English perfect. With a boastful name like this, I had high hopes for this dessert. As a lover of salted caramel and different textures on a plate, the Salted Caramel Parfait came pretty close and was one of the dishes that I really enjoyed on the night. The frozen parfait was not too sweet or overpowering, and sat on a beautiful and crumbly biscuit base. Atop the parfait sat two puffs of white chocolate foam, from which shards of brittle toffee protruded. The parfait was served with popcorn scattered to its side, with a few dots of bitter dark caramel, which added another dimension of flavour to the dish. This is a dish where each individual element makes for a mediocre dessert, however, all elements combined together, this dessert ticks off many of the boxes on my criteria-for-an-ideal-dessert list.
Of course, at the end of every enjoyable night comes the bill. We forked out about $100 each, which is about what I normally expect to spend at fine dining locales like Nobu. There are still many things on the menu that I’d like to try, and what I have already eaten was certainly pleasant, so I would happily return in the future to see what else the Japanese Peruvian cuisine can offer.