NOBU LONDON – A NEW BENCHMARK IN JAPANESE

Following on my exploration of Far Eastern cuisine, I decided to drop into Nobu at the Metropolitan Hotel on Park Lane. Nobu has been classed as merely “sushi fast food”, a bit better than McDonald’s by true knowers and lovers of Japanese cuisine, for example chuckeats in California. His view of course is made up of an active knowledge of all great California, New York and Tokyo sushi joints, such as Coi, Urasawa, Masa and Kuruma Zushi. However my humble self have only been to the Harrods sushi bar, one of the best fast food sushi places in London called itsu and of course all that Budapest has to offer. And that’s not a lot. But to put it into perspective for you: if Kyoto or Fuji here were a car then they would be an Opel Astra, Nobu would be the X5 BMW and Urasawa probably the Aston Martin in the group. That immediately tells you that I enjoyed eating at Nobu immensely and until I drive that Aston I will refer to my BMW experiences as the benchmark.

Call me perverse, but I had a couple of hours to burn in London in between shopping and visiting friends in the evening so I decided to book a early 6 o’clock dinner table at Nobu for myself. Equipped with a blackberry phone and camera in one hand and a copy of the Times in the other I entered the famous (or infamous – think Boris Becker) joint just as three Aston Martins and two Ferraris drove by on Park Lane. A good technique employed by the restaurant is to make guests sit at the bar for about ten minutes even though the place is completely empty and ask you if you want a drink. When in Rome do as the Romans do says the proverb, so I naturally asked for a Gin Tonic to put me in a positive mood and clear my mind of all negative blog posts I read on Nobu.

As I was being led to the table all the waiters shouted a greeting at the same time in Japanese, sort of reminding me of the Italian Pizzeria in Zamárdi, where they put a bit more emphasis on over the top service and acting rather than the quality of the food. I found this greeting a bit overdone and immediately flashes of Disneyland and fast food came to mind, which I ushered away. There is no need for a Michelin star restaurant to operate with these gimmicks. There is an obvious effort by the owners to employ waiting staff based on multiculturalism and looks. During my brief stay I was waited by French, Spanish or South American, Chinese, Scandinavian and some Eastern European staff, most likely Polish. Don’t worry I didn’t meet Feri Hujber.

Although I only really wanted to try the world famous black cod and maybe a bit of sashimi, I took one look at the menu and found the 8 course omakase menu. I quickly told myself that that was the only option here even though it would probably take a very long time to eat through and I would be utterly bored in between. But time actually flew with me taking notes, reading the menu and spotting celebrities passing by. Omakase means I put myself in the hands of the chef ad allow him to prepare whatever he wants for me. Perfect.

My first course was the salmon tartare with wasabi soy sauce, scallions and caviar. The salmon was really very tasty, it was chopped roughly, and the wasabi and soy give it a nice salty and hot taste, but I thought the amount of sauce or dressing was a bit over the top.




Second came sea bream and prawn sashimi with yuzu olive oil and some dried red miso on top. The yuzu gave a nice citrus tang to the dish and the dried miso gave the salty component to the sweet shrimp pieces. Nice harmony.



Then came one of the tastiest starters: razor clams in light batter, a char grilled tiger prawn and grilled slices of pink tuna. I love razor clams and these were prepared exceptionally well fried in the batter and served with the so called Matsuhisa sauce which is essentially tomatoes, paprika, garlic, loads of onions cooked up with a bit of sugar and vinegar. This gave it the long awaited Peruvian or South American kick and complemented the fish and the prawns well.

The crowd is very mixed bunch here: a refined Japanese lady drinking tea and reading a paper, a tattooed and pierced rock star hangs out with a gorgeous blonde, a real rock icon – the legendary Queen guitarist Brian May - sits at a large table with his family, loads of businessmen and women and some Israelis who I overhear discussing their friend „Avram”’s problems with the team. Hmm.



And next....I can already see it in the hands of the waiter...it can only be.... the black cod! This piece of cod is marinated in mirin, soy and sugar for three days before poaching and grilling. The soy gives the fish a lovely, sticky black coat. I take the first bite and this is truly one of the best pieces of fish I have had, it’s simply a perfect recipe and perfect preparation and falls to pieces and dissolves in my mouth as it enters it. The fish is accompanied by a beautiful pink ginger flower, which looks like the flower of a cactus and has the lightest, sweetest ginger taste. There’s a bit of yuzu on this dish as well, obviously harmonizing the various tastes, but I feel it’s unnecessary here.



Next up is a meat dish, the beef teppan yaki with a large shiitake mushroom and small enoki mushrooms. The beef arrived sizzling in a clay pot under a clay roof. It continued to cook once the roof was off, but the sauce – if there was any at all under the meat sizzled and burnt away the next minute. Not sure if that was meant to be, but at least it put all the emphasis on the meat. Now I didn’t make any notes here, because I was too preoccupied with the slices of beef, which were simply amazing. Soft, tender, the best quality I have had since Uruguay and Buenos Aires. No need to say more about this. The mushrooms were.... mushrooms.



Next up came the sushi dish. A sushi of chu-toro sea bass, fresh salmon, tamago and two special hand rolls with scallion and yellowtail. Unfortunately I chose the cheaper omakase menu for 70 quid... and so the o-toro, the best fatty belly tuna was reserved for the richer guests. Nevertheless my chu toro was once again the best tuna I’ve ever had. Fattier, richer than anything I ate as tuna previously. The salmon and sea bass was high quality as well although didn’t leave such an imprint as the toro. The egg was very strange, nothing like we find here, almost an egg pudding type of consistency. The wasabi was super-fresh and almost UV green.

Last but not least I received a dessert of Chocolate fondant with green tea ice cream. This one was bit of a disappointment, because the fondant’s outside crust was a bit airy and the sponge part thin to my taste while the chocolate inside also wasn’t amazing. The green tea ice cream was rich in taste, but I actually thought it tasted like spinach.

So who cares about dessert anyway when you’ve had an amazing piece of fish and superb beef? These two along with the Matsuhisa razor clams and grilled tiger prawn were the best dishes of the day and thus my new benchmark for Japanese.

Overall: 9/10
Nobu London
19 Old Park Lane
http://www.noburestaurants.com/london/index.html

1 megjegyzés:

florian said...

hi there
yes i do remember Brian may at the big round table there. maybe you wondering who i am . so i am one of the eastern europian guy who was serving you perhaps, but i am hungarian ,lol
thanks for the good feedback ,Nobu is still one of the best as you said mx5 BMW.