I am always amused by our Japanese friends who completely disclaim any relationship between Japanese cuisine and the restaurant (“Nobu isn’t a real Japanese restaurant”). Whatever the truth of the statement, it is an excellent restaurant, whether truly Japanese or not.
We went with some friends and three out of the four of us picked the omakase menu (chef’s choice). (As an aside, I absolutely love restaurants who don’t require the entire table to choose a tasting menu. It does lead to some bizarre timing issues for the kitchen and waitstaff and diners, but as long as you can live with that, it’s wonderful.)
Our first course was raw oysters and tuna tartare in a soy sauce-based marinade. Both were incredibly high quality and delicious.
Next was nigiri, consisting of (from left to right) toro, clam, white fish, and fried tofu with spicy tuna. The sushi was melt-in-your-mouth quality, which we have found only in Hawaii and Japan.
Next up, again from left to right, is red snapper (with a bit of chili powder), Hawaiian poke, and king salmon. My ranking from least to best is right to left, but all three were excellent.
The next dish was kampachi with onion sesame dressing. Kampachi is a Hawaiian white fish also known as almaco jack. The fish was incredibly fresh and delicate and matched perfectly with the dressing.
To clear our palates, we were then served a pineapple shiso sorbet. The sweetness of the pineapple was cut by the shiso, and the two flavors melded perfectly together.
Onto the cooked dishes: first up was lobster served with wasabi pepper sauce. The lobster had been removed from its shell, cooked, and returned to its shell with vegetables and the sauce. It was arguably the best dish of the night.
We then were served wagyu beef with foie gras and soy reduction marinade. Wagyu beef is the U.S. version of Kobe beef from Japan and while it is not quite as melt-in-your-mouth tender as Kobe beef (where the cows are given daily massages), it was still amazingly tender and flavorful. The foie gras added additional richness while the soy marinade gave the dish a bit of astringent balance.
The final non-dessert dish was a bowl of dashi cold noodles. I am not a cold noodle fan myself, but the dashi flavoring was excellent (and the only place I’ve ever found it as good has been Tokyo), and the noodles were surprisingly delicious.
Clearly, Nobu isn’t Japanese because it does a beautiful latte. 🙂
And dessert (also very un-Japanese) was a maple crème brûlée. I was so stuffed by then that I only took a couple of bites, but it was very well done.
I will leave the argument as to whether Nobu is truly Japanese or not to those who care about such things. Whatever it is (or isn’t), Nobu is a truly excellent restaurant with delicious and beautifully presented food.
Nobu is located at Waikiki Parc Hotel, 2233 Helumoa Road, Honolulu, HI 96815 (www.noburestaurants.com/waikiki).