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Happy eating,
Jon!




Thursday, October 11, 2007
Nobu Melbourne Restaurant (Southbank)
Last night I finally had the opportunity to eat at Nobu, an experience I have been looking forward to for quite some time. I arrived fairly late, just before 8:30 P.M. and the place was still a buzz with plenty of new guests arriving and settling in. Slight grumble: They have only been open two months and have already increased prices on some of the popular dishes.

I was very excited – a restaurant that looked and felt wonderful. Upon arrival, I did not have a booking as the staff on the phone had told me that since I was dining alone that I should just come in and wait for a seat at the sushi bar. I am immediately escorted to the lounge area upstairs and am told that someone would be with me in just a moment. This is where disappointment begins – I was wanting to eat downstairs, but if I had to eat here it was no big deal – the ambience was still great, albeit noisy, and the full menu would be available.

For some reason however I was totally neglected by all staff members. After about 25 minutes of watching numerous tables be seated, receive drinks, order and be escorted down stairs I had yet to even receive a menu or be acknowledged. Eventually I attracted the attention of a waiter and explained the situation. She basically said oh sorry I did not see you there – please – she must have walked past me 10 times and its not like they had a shortage of waiters – they were everywhere – dozens of them, and I gave them subtle looks to try and attract attention but nothing worked.

When finally attended to I asked if it was possible to eat downstairs and am told that it is heavily booked and that I would need to speak again with the reception staff at the entry. I am sure the waiter could have done this, as was seemingly being done for other guests, but I just got up and walked up to the front desk. I explained the whole situation and they were very apologetic. I asked if I could get a table downstairs – I am again told it is heavily booked but they will see what they can do – after a phone call – it is now nearing 9:00 P.M. – I am told that something has just cleared up. I walk down the stairs and am seated at the sushi bar, where to my surprise there are about six unoccupied positions. Things are good now, and in fairness other guests all seem to be getting prompt, friendly service – I may have just been an oversight.


After arriving downstairs I promptly receive menus and am offered a drink – I opt to begin with green tea – and after a quick explanation I am left to ponder the menu, being told that I can order any sushi or sashimi pieces directly from the bar, and other items from the a la carte menu through the waiter, who would be happy to explain anything to me. The service from hereon was good, and the seating arrangement I now had was a unique one – sitting directly in front of the numerous Japanese sushi chefs preparing guests' sushi and sashimi offerings for the evening. They were very friendly and did their job well – I am happy to be seated here with a great view of watching these men perform their art as well as a partial view into the kitchen proper where the hot dishes are being prepared. It felt right, but perhaps didn’t quite have the “wow factor” I may have expected. The service however, now that I had been seated, was very efficient, perhaps too efficient. Turn over was very quick and new dishes were being presented whilst I was still eating the last. The food that I received was all of an excellent standard. Many dishes represented good value for money, others barely so.

To start with I am presented with a complimentary bowl of Edamame (soy bean pods). These are warm, slightly salted and (surprisingly), quite delicious.

I soon proceed to order and choose a number of the signature dishes, based on recommendations and reviews I have read about the restaurant. In many respects the menu appears to be well priced, but it is somewhat deceiving as you will need a number of courses to fill you up, which can become quite expensive. Good for sharing. Here is a summary of my seemingly big meal, just enough really – six courses.

Scallop Tiradito ($13) – At first sight this is good value but you don’t get a lot here. Six slices (maybe 2 scallops) of very thin sliced scallop sitting atop some thin slices of cucumber topped with a baby coriander (cilantro) leaf and a tiny dot of rocoto – a South American chilli paste. The dish is finished with a bathing of acidity coming from a powerful citrus/ yuzu dressing. Overall this was a very successful dish, with a broad range of flavours.


New style salmon sashimi ($10) – This is a dish where you really do get good value. You receive a plate containing about 9 slices of salmon sashimi, topped with some chives, a deep fried cherry tomato and some sesame seeds, dressed with a warm mix of sesame and olive oils and finished with a light soy based dressing. Another successful dish.


Fillet of beef tataki ($18) – Once again this is a very impressive dish with great flavour. Here you get a moorish dish: 10 slices of rare beef fillet doused in a dark acidic dressing and topped with some finely diced ponzu and onion finished with crunchy garlic chips. It was an excellent combination of flavours and good value for money. I would have perhaps preferred just a little less dressing as it is a strong flavour and in some ways takes the focus off the sweetness of the meat – common in most of the dressed dishes here: the dressing is vitally important but dishes need not be drowned in it.


Black Cod with Miso ($35) – It is very rare that you will get a chance to try cod on an Australian menu, so there is almost no excuse not to try this “signature” dish. It is not cheap but definitely worth trying. The fillet of fish has been marinated in a miso paste and sake based marinade for 2-3 days and is roasted quickly before serving. The texture of the fish is akin to no other – it has a flaky like consistency, which easily falls apart into chunks. Even the skin is delightful – soft, gelatinous and full of subtle flavour. This was an excellent course, perfectly cooked, and presented simply with a wedge of lemon, some dots of miso sauce in the corners of the plate and a stick of hajikami (pickled ginger shoot) to be sucked on at the end to refresh the palette. It is also a decent serving size: not large, but not too small, in keeping with the ideas of trying many different dishes throughout the evening. It would perhaps have been nice if a small dish of rice was offered with this course.


Corn Kaki Age Tempura ($6) – Good value and fairly generous. A mix of fresh corn kernels and some other vegetable shards, in a crunchy tempura batter. This was served with an interesting warm miso based dipping sauce. A decent dish, but nothing above the norm. Fresh ingredients, but I don’t think the oil it was cooked in was completely fresh as the tempura was masked by some seemingly inconsistent flavours.


That brings me to the end of my savoury courses and I opt to order dessert. I go for the popular chocolate bento box ($16). What you are presented with is a nice little box containing the light chocolate fondant sided by a scoop of green tea ice cream. It was a very tasty pudding, not overly rich, and oozing with warm chocolate when broken into. Paradoxically this is not particularly creative though and is poor value at $16. You can get some of Melbourne’s best desserts for this sought of price, and whilst it tasted good, the cost was not merited. And yes, the presentation box is dirty inside, so marks off for presentation as well.


Whilst I am a dessert fan, based on what I have seen here and read, you are probably better off skipping dessert and indulging in an extra savoury course instead. I knew I should have ordered one of those sushi rolls. Definitely next time.

Overall Nobu was a good experience. I cannot rate service very highly, after the bad start and overly fast pacing – six courses over in well under 90 minutes. Also as I was leaving I actually said goodbye to the girl at the reception desk, rather than the other way around, who just looked over – she appeared to be more interested in the computer screen, browsing through eBay auctions (honestly). Not acceptable. But the food was good, and the atmosphere nice. I will return in the future – I just hope to receive more consistent service, which most other diners did seem to get.

Cost/ Value: About $100 just for food, and that was being selective, and skipping some desired items like the crispy oysters at $9.50 each. Not too bad, but that being said I can also easily get three courses and a side dish at one of Melbourne’s best restaurants for near or less than this amount, and leave just as full and possibly more satisfied. The wine list is also marked up very heavily.

Whilst the food quality is of a different level, I left just as satisfied from Ling Wah a couple of nights earlier, and the bill for the table of five was similar to my solo bill here. Only the service at Nobu was not nearly as good.

My Score: 13.5/20
Consistently very good, creative food 7.5/10
Messy service (good when I got it) 2.5/5
Nice ambience and surroundings 3.5/5 (0.5 point deduction for the use of disposable break-apart chopsticks – Why?).

This could have easily been a 15+/20 experience if not for the service mishaps and pacing. Recommended.

www.noburestaurants.com/melbourne/index.html

Labels: ,


  posted at 2:11 PM  
  2 comments



2 Comments:
At January 16, 2008 at 11:19 AM, Blogger Miss E said...

You've just convinced me not to bother rushing to go there. Thanks.

 
At September 4, 2009 at 10:28 PM, Blogger Michelle Chin said...

I had the worst experience in Nobu. Just yesterday.

Ran over to Guillaume to have coffee and truffles to sort out the anger.

 

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