Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Post 48: No Boos for Nobu (LA: West Hollywood)

I bought a Gilt City certificate for Nobu a while back, and since it was about to expire, it was finally time to make a reservation.  Procrastination... isn't that how we all do it?

So Allie and I went to West Hollywood to check out world-renowned, eponymous chef Nobu Matsuhisa's restaurant Nobu.  The Gilt certificate treated the two of us to four tapas style plates and two drinks each.  Dessert was not included, but of course, we caved into the demands of our sweet tooth.

Here's what we ordered:

Shiso Asahi and cucumber martini

A cold beer is simply great.  But throw in the fragrance of shiso leaves that permeate through the crispness of the bubbly Japanese alcohol, and your simple cold beer becomes a truly refreshing beverage.  The combination is as beautiful as the pairing of mint and chocolate chip ice cream.  It's cold.  It's sweet.  The green waltzes across your tongue.  It's calmly exotic.  Pour me another, please.

Yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño
Yuzu, soy, jalapeño

The combination of soy with an Asian citrus and a Latino pepper produces a great blend of salty, sour, spicy flavors.  But the flavor may have had too much strength for the delicate yellowtail.  I like to know that the sashimi is fresh when I bite into it, but the sauce almost drowns out the natural freshness of the yellowtail.  Perhaps if the ingredients were separated upon serving, it would be easier to control the desired amount of sauce, japaleño and garnish.  Personalization... who doesn't love that?

Oysters with Nobu sauces
Nobu salsa, Maui onion salsa, ponzu

Whenever I encounter a raw oyster, I feel like I am holding a newborn for the first time.  It look so squishy, and I'm afraid liquid will gush out if put too much pressure on it.  A part of me doesn't want to touch it at all because... well, it looks gross.  The liquid surrounding the raw oyster is like the saliva that pools up around the baby's mouth.  Ew.  But once the fear has been overcome, whether it's swallowing the oyster or holding the fragile infant, the reward is tremendous.  It's a newfound love connection.  Three oysters between the two of us... sorry Allie, but I'm holding onto the last one.

Lobster sashimi tacos
Wasabi aioli, tomatillo salsa in wonton shells

I've had lobster sashimi before, and I'll tell you right now that soy sauce and wasabi alone cannot mask the intimidation that is a piece of lobster sashimi.  But drizzle wasabi aioli and tomatillo salsa over the piece of uncooked crustacean and wrap it with something deep fried and crispy, and the lobster becomes nothing more than a piece of shrimp cocktail.  The citrus from the lemon brings the flavor the creamy spiciness of the aioli and salsa forward, which really tops off the taco.  If there's one way to have lobster sashimi, this is it.

Wagyu tacos
Aji amarillo, spicy cilantro in wonton shells

To yin out the yang of the lobster tacos, we ordered the wagyu beef tacos.  Whereas the sauce stood out in the lobster tacos, the beef really shined here.  It was marinated and seasoned right, and the flavor was strong but not salty.  In just one bite, it was easy to tell that the filling was made with beef and that the beef was done right.  The lime and the cilantro cut whatever grease happened to be there.  The wonton shells cracked under the pressure of excitement, which led to beef and sauce getting all over my hands.  But hey, that was just another excuse to lick my fingers.

Wagyu and foie gras gyozas
Ginger, megi, scallions with orange ginger den miso and jalapeño ponzu

If you can imagine a fatty meat mixed with another fatty substance, wrapped in a layer of carbs and then fried to a crisp, you're imaging Nobu's wagyu and foie gras gyozas.  This is the higher end version of the deep fried butter from the county fair.  Fat fried in more fat... mmmmm.  Shivers.  The gyozas, although delicious, hung in purgatorial limbo.  I couldn't tell whether I liked the filling or the gyoza skin more or whether I prefered the ginger miso or the jalapeño ponzu.  Shrug.  I'm guessing that's why both sauces are provided with the overstuffed gyozas.  You can nom and dip repeatedly until you make up your mind.  But it was hard to make up my mind... bring on more gyozas please.

Scallops truffle panko crust
Panko crust, sauteed mushrooms and mizuna, yuzu truffle butter

The scallops dish was the first course that didn't feel like just a small tapas plate.  The scallops were delicate but robust from the panko and truffle combination.  The mushrooms were hearty and provided more substance for the stomach.  And the peppery mizuna, reminiscent of arugula, cleansed the palate from the buttery truffle and the truffly butter.  Compared to the previous dishes, this was like a full entree.  Allie liked this dish so much that we ordered another; it was the only dish that we ordered seconds of.

Foie gras and crispy soba
Shredded daikon, sugar snap peas, aji amarillo with soba crackers

More foie gras? Can't stray from a favorite.  By this point in the meal, Allie and I were both rolling from how unbelievably full we were... but no matter because there was still the fat-bursting taste of foie gras to consume.  And although the foie gras was prepared perfectly, what really held my attention was the daikon that trapped the fatty oil and sauce within its hairlike strands.  It was as if prey had been entangled in the tentacles of a giant King Kong octopus... and devour was the only verb that the octopus understood.  Muahahaha... the analogy only works if you think you are the octopus.

New tiramisu
Tipsy coffee sponge, tiramisu gelato, frozen chocolate, kinako powder, Thai coffee drip

Asian inspired tiramisu? No, this new tiramisu is not from JJ Bakery.  It's from Matsuhisa-san's restaurant, and it is the ultimate example of a deconstructed dessert.  The new tiramisu looked like a house before construction... the coffee sponge, substituted for lady fingers, provided the foundation for the building... the frozen chocolate was the concrete; only it was better tasting and not as hard... the kinako powder, made from soybeans, could be thought of as the insulation for the house.  It was a little chalky, so it was probably best that we didn't breathe it in.  And the roof? There was no roof.  There was only tiramisu gelato.  Sips of the Thai coffee in between each spoonful of tiramisu made me appreciate the dessert even more.  Forget the roof.  This dessert went through the roof.  Let it rain Thai coffee over the house.

We also ordered a second dessert called the Cebu kamameshi, and it came in a metal cauldron that was cooked over an open flame.  It was filled with vanilla flavored risotto, purple yam ice cream, purple yam pieces, mochi pearls, and soba pop crunch.  Although the ingredients and presentation gave it a bit of avant-garde appeal, it was simply not cooked to its full potential.  The texture of the risotto tasted like stale Rice Krispies; but had it been cooked down to its meant-to-be-softness, the dish would have been tops.  The dessert was sweet... but naturally sweet.  Sweet from the roots of purple yam and vanilla rather than sweet from syrups, sugar, and chocolate.  If it wasn't for the cardboard risotto, the kamameshi would have been extremely addicting.

So no boos for Nobu.  The food was tasty, and the service was attentive al dente.  We could tell that our server had a true passion for food, possibly just as much as passion that was conveyed on our plates by the master chefs in the kitchen.  Between the yellowtail and the kamameshi, Allie and I became slightly intoxicated... but from the food more so than the wine.  Oh, did I mention we had a couple of glasses of wine? Nobu is a bit pricey, but the food and drinks make it worth the visit.  We will return! We hear they have great happy hour...

Until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20110122

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