When it comes to food, palette diversity could not be wider as everyone defines his or her own concept of what makes a restaurant worthy. We have friends who will always remain true to their ethnic cuisine and view with skepticism contemporary restaurants based on their ethnic cuisine. We have Chinese friends who, when in comes to Chinese cuisine, only patronize authentic Chinese restaurants. Similarly, we have Japanese friends who will only go to traditional Japanese restaurants. Nobu, who?
Where and how do we draw the line between what is authentic and not? There is no question of authenticity when a hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant is owned and operated by Japanese serving up traditional food items. What about when a Japanese restaurant takes on a contemporary spin in its food execution and presentation? Will it still be stripped off its right to authenticity? But what if the food item, as contemporary as it might be in presentation, is executed with ingredients native to the cuisine?
I ask myself that question all the time although I am never really wanting to seek the answer. Heck, even the most authentically delicious bowl of ramen you will find in Japan have grassroots from China. Chinese noodles were brought into Japan and gradually the bowl of noodle soup was shaped into Japan's very ramen. Where does the term authenticity begin?
Sure, when it comes to food, we want the true and original (or as they call authentic) flavors of the cuisine. Food can also be both authentic and contemporary at the same time. It is possible and Nobu is testimony to that. T and I are by no means sticklers to the term authentic and while we take great interest in beautifully crafted and creative foods in sexy restaurants, we also get tremendous fulfillment out of hole-in-the-wall and no-frills joints. A chef can stray from the traditionally expected way of cooking as much as he wants to with his innovation and creativity, and as long as the marriage of flavors work perfectly in execution, that is a winner to T and I.
Lest you think that Nobu gained its fame by being the most mentioned Japanese restaurant for celebrity sightings (and maybe that is partly correct), this place does deliver solid and fine Japanese food with uncompromising quality.
Our friendly server came over and introduced himself and saw our dSLR camera. I see that you brought your very nice camera. Don't worry, just take your time tonight and enjoy playing around with photographing your food. The food here is perfect for photography, he told us. Ah, yes, thank you.
|Eva Sakura martini|
The Eva Sakura martini is shaken and poured table side. The concoction is partly made up of Suntory Yamazaki 12-year whiskey and sake with flavors that make a smooth blend. Note that an order of this particular martini will have enough for a refill for your martini glass. After my cocktail was poured into my glass from the shaker, the server left the shaker on our table so that my glass could be refilled with the remaining cocktail. If you are planning to order a second and different drink during the night, be sure to pace yourself.
|Shima aji sashimi with jalapeno|
Having lived and worked in Peru for several during the early years of being a chef, Nobu Matsuhisa is said to incorporate South American ingredients into traditional Japanese cuisine. If this is supposed to be an indication of his cooking technique, we certainly did not see much of it, if any at all, as we looked over the menu that was mainly both traditional and modern takes on Japanese cuisine.
In fact, perhaps the one and only hint of anything being South American is the jalapeno in the yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno dish that is widely popular. On the night we were there, the restaurant had shima aji that was just freshly flown in and our server recommended that we get this fish to substitute for the yellowtail since they carry yellowtail everyday. We never want to pass up on daily fish specials and agreed to his suggestion. The shima aji sashimi with jalapeno dish was drizzled with refreshing ponzu sauce accompanied with a slight hint of citrus. A cross between mackerel and yellowtail, the shima aji was at its freshest that night.
|Wood oven-roasted leek with miso aioli|
The wood oven-roasted leek with miso aioli is a work of delicate art. Heavily charred on the outside, the outermost layer is cut opened to reveal the inside layers that were meant to be eaten. This inner stalk is carefully sliced into miniature bite sizes before the miso aioli is delicately piped onto the inner stalk.
|Black codi with miso|
Nobu has been synonymously known for the black cod with miso. In our server's words, restaurants including Koi have tried to emulate this signature dish of chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Who wouldn't want to? The cod here is prepared to result in a smooth-as-butter texture.
|Squid pasta with garlic sauce|
Don't be deceived by the the name squid pasta with light garlic sauce on the menu. It is far from being a pasta dish. For those who are unfamiliar, ika somen is one of the more traditional dishes in Japanese cuisine where ika (squid) is thinly sliced to resemble somen (fine noodles). Ika somen is generally found only in traditional Japanese restaurants. Taking a play on the traditional ika somen where squid is meant to physically resemble noodles, Nobu creates its own representation of this dish. By calling the dish squid pasta, pieces of squid are sliced so that they resemble shell pasta. Now, that's ingenious.
If you have ever tried to cook squid at home, you will know that it cooks very quickly and even the slightest hint of overcooked squid will turn rubbery. At Nobu, the squid pasta is perfectly charred and yet it maintains the slight rareness to it. Seasoned with shichimi (Japanese chili pepper), the delicate spice lingers on the tongue without being overpowering.
|Miso soup with clams|
As far creativity has brought Nobu to its success, this place also does the Japanese classics very well. The sweet potato tempura is fried to perfection and the layer of batter is just thin enough. The sashimi (pictured above: golden eye snapper, squid, kampachi) is maintained at the freshest quality.
Green teas are often refilled with a fresh cup of tea from the kitchen. Nobu makes a wonderful night out without being pompous. There are different gorgeous dining sections at Nobu and we made sure to wander through them.
903 N La Cienega Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046