Nobu and I have a bit of a long standing history.
I went with my family in early March 2008, so Nobu was probably only just a tiny bit shy of it's 6 month birthday. Still quite fresh, and certainly hot and popping at the time with Robert De Niro's name being flashed around everywhere at every mention.
The occasion for us, was our last family dinner before I was to fly off to Germany for 6 months. My first time living away from home.
We had a terrible time. The food on a whole was okay, Dad wasn't particularly impressed, but the service was also frankly, quite miserable that night. Staff were unapologetic, a little bit in your face (in the wrong way) and not particularly gracious which ruined the night for all of us. I remember nearly leaving the restaurant in tears because everyone was so irate.
For years after, I would continue to badmouth Nobu and refuse to go back.
However, I suppose I really cannot let one bad experience years ago, stop me from trying it again, years later. Especially with the fast moving restaurant landscape that is the Crown precinct, if they've managed to stay around, it's got to mean they're doing something right...right?
That and I noticed they had updated their website with their menu and well...it looked good. I'm easy to persuade, what can I say?
So Brad's birthday came up and I decided we needed to go out, of course. He on the other hand, wasn't so fussed and left it completely in my hands to decide where and when. He's useless, honestly.
After tossing up my many options, narrowing it down to two options, surveying friends, twitter and facebook, we inevitably ended up at Nobu.
Nobu is on the Southgate side of Crown and like many of it's neighbours, is dimly lit and quietly cool. When you walk through the doors, you are faced with the bar and have to descend stairs to enter the dining area, to a chorus of cheery 'Irashaimase'. Although I had to cringe slightly at the pronunciation!
The basement dining area is slick, with a myriad of textures adorning the walls and quite ornate upholstery and carpet. I'm not sure how I feel about dining rooms with no windows or sources of natural light though. I suppose at night, especially in winter it's not such a big thing, but if you were to visit at lunch time? Just doesn't seem as appealing personally...
One thing you couldn't help but notice was the huge variety of crowd that Nobu managed to pull, on a Tuesday night. The staff turned some tables over twice! You had families, couples, tables of men (mostly American, you could hear them from a mile away...Brad and I speculated that they were probably hotel guests), and girlfriends on a girls night out. It's quite impressive really that they are able to cater to so many age groups and demographics...or is this just the power of the Nobu name pulling people in?
I started with a glass of umeshu, and Brad and I decided to also share a sake, the Hokusetsu Onigoroshi 'Devil Killer', served cold, which came in a tumbler made of bamboo. It was more than enough alcohol that night for the two of us...
Nobu's menu is quite different to a lot of Japanese restaurants. On top of being Japanese with a South American influence, I can't remember exactly what the word for it was, but it was a certain way of eating. I liked the explanation of the menu and how it worked. The idea was to have protein filled appetisers and mains first, accompanied with some vegetables and to have sushi later on in the night, to make sure more carbohydrates would be consumed afterwards.
When you think about it, it's a very logical diet and I'm quite surprised it hasn't been extremely commercialised yet....
I'm all for a little bit of novelty, so my novelty bone was certainly tickled when I saw the Sashimi Tacos with yellowtail, salmon, lobster and snow crab. With a touch of salsa on the side.
This was a fun dish to start the night with, a little hard to share, but cool and refreshing, with generous portions of crab and lobster in particular. I found the crab a tad lacking in flavour, but the lobster was still quite tasty. And the salmon taco completely knocked it out of the park, especially with a little bit of salsa dropped over the top. Mmhmmm.
From crunchy 'taco' shells, we then progressed to crispy rice with spicy tuna, which had been recommended by a few friends. Again, a fun little interactive dish! Whilst wielding a little bamboo stake, which had a perfectly shaped cube of rice stabbed at the end, the diner lops on spicy raw tuna (lovingly covered in Japanese mayonaise too...) and dips the lot in some soya sauce!
I found the rice a little more chewy, but the exterior had a nice fried crisp to it. I felt like it was a slightly...cheap route to have so much mayonaise on the tuna, as it is just an easy pairing and is instantly delicious. So the combination is a bit of an easy expected route, but yummy. Maybe a tiny bit overpriced? But I suppose that is why you have the fun factor lopped in then no?
Taking a break from seafood, our next dish was the beef tataki with ponzu and garlic chips, again another recommendation from many who have already visited. It certainly didn't disappoint with it's paper thin slices of rare beef, just look at that colour, how on earth can they be so consistent with slicing it?! The beef had a nice tanginess and I loved the, also, extremely paper thin and crisp garlic chips on top. It was a very delicate and subtle combination of flavours and textures that just worked a treat.
We always make an attempt to feel healthy and order vegetables, this was just a mix of seasonal vegetables. Oh my goodness. What a pleasant surprise. These were sinfully buttery and delicious, with a nice little topping of sesame seeds which gave a little toasted aroma. I also liked that the vegetables were slightly al dente and not mushy. More enjoyable than I expected it to be!
Well, we had to have it right? In the menu, the infamous signature dish is just listed as "Black Cod Miso". But what they don't tell you that it's Alaskan black cod, that has been marinated for 3 days before glazed with miso and cooked.
I didn't have particularly high expectations for some reason. But it's so good when you don't. This is really the stuff legends are made of. I'm not kidding. It was moist and absolutely buttery in texture. The flesh just absolutely melted away in your mouth and was gorgeously rich in flavour. I loved the shiny sheen the glaze gave to the fish, it also parted a sweetness to the fish which was very enjoyable.
Although all the dishes were good, this was fantastic and the absolute best memory of the night.
We weren't leaving without getting sushi and opted for a soft shell crab roll, two pieces of anago sushi and two pieces of mackerel sashimi.
I'm okay with the two pieces of anago sushi, but seriously, could they have been any more stingy with the sashimi?
It's so freaking tiny! I honestly can't remember how much I liked it, but I reckon Shira Nui did it much better in their omakase...
The anago was pretty good, but nowhere near as buttery and creamy in texture or as rich in flavour as I've had before, which is what I long for and dream of when I think of anago. Still fairly tasty though, but just not quite the same...
The soft shell crab roll on the other hand, did not disappoint at all, it held together gorgeously, the rice had a nice fluffy texture to it and the soft shell crab itself was warm and tasty. All really quite filling, as the rolls are quite big and well packed!
To finish up, since I had been drooling over the dinner menu online for a week or two leading up to dinner, we ordered Nobu's bento box with hot chocolate fondant and green tea ice-cream.
One word. Decadence. The chocolate was rich and oozed out lovingly from the centre of the cake. The green tea ice-cream? Some of the best I've had I think, the matcha flavours were so true and strong, it wasn't even really that sweet. Which seems weird for ice-cream, but when it's green tea, it really works very well. A fairly classic combination, but done exceptionally.
Oh and what about the service this time? Infinitely better. Maybe because they're more settled now, they're not as hot or crazy busy and instead of being trendy and cool, just do good, simple, friendly service. I felt a little bad since Brad and I got into some fairly deep conversation, even before we started ordering and the poor waitresses had to keep coming up and checking if we were ready to order. But every time we said we needed a bit longer, they left us with a smile and checked on us the whole night to make sure we were doing well.
I felt much more welcomed and comfortable this time and would now, happily recommend others to Nobu. It is an expensive affair, but well worth it for certain dishes.
Brad and I rounded up his birthday night by visiting Galactic Circus, the videogame arcade, where I proceeded to kick his butt at Time Crisis 4. Nerdy girlfriend for the win.
8 Whiteman StSouthbank, 3006