Thursday, November 27, 2008
Last week was the First Annual Restaurant Week to benefit the Culinary Institute of the Pacific. Restaurants across Honolulu teamed up with the Culinary Institute in an effort to raise money and encourage people to eat out. Some offered discounts, others donated a portion of their sales. I took advantage of this opportunity to check out Nobu in Waikiki. This place usually has a pretty high price tag, but for this special event you could get a three-course meal for just $32!
I'd been hearing wonderful things about this restaurant and was delighted to have the opportunity to try it at a discounted rate. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa creates a menu of modern Japanese with a hint of South American influence. Elements of lime juice, jalepeno, and cilantro are just a few subtle accents found in the Japanese dishes. Nobu Matsuhisa has obtained celebrity chef status across the United States, and is known for training the Iron Chef, Masaharu Morimoto.
This restaurant fits in perfectly with the trendy Waikiki Parc Hotel. The hotel itself boasts itself as being "Paradise with an edge" and "More than a hotel, its an attitude." Likewise, Nobu diners have the experience of new age Japanese cuisine set in a sleek and vibrant atmosphere. The dining area is dark with accents of red lighting, juxtaposed against a brightly light, ultra-modern sushi bar. Tables are set with white porcelain dishes and a set of chopsticks resting on a smooth river stone.
Start the experience off with a specialty cocktail or Nobu's private label beer, Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. I ordered the Sira Ume cocktail; pinky vodka, Takara plum wine, and lime juice. Slightly sweet with a nice tang of ume.
The special set menu consisted a choice of salad, entree, and a dessert. In addition to this, we also ordered an appetizer and sushi.
My salad was Big Island Heats of Palm. Fresh ribbons of hearts of palm, yuzu dressing, micro greens and a jalepeno puree made from jalepeno, garlic and rice vinegar. The bright dressing and pepper flakes gave the hearts of palm a nice kick, while still maintaining the delicate aspects of the hearts of palm.
My mom had the Shiitake Salad, which was fresh seasonal greens with a spicy lemon dressing, garlic chips, marinated shiitake mushrooms, and sesame seeds. This one was a little overpowering and heavy on the salt.
Nobu has an impressive appetizer and sashimi menu. One of the waiter's recommendations was the Tiradito (whitefish, octopus, scallop, or botan-ebi). We chose the Tiradito Scallop ($17, not part of the set menu). Thin slices of scallop sashimi, Peruvian spicy sauce, lemon yuzu sauce, black peppercorns, and cilantro. This was unlike any sashimi I have ever eaten! You immediately taste the spice and tanginess of the sauce, followed by the sweetness of the delicate scallops, and then the flavor finishes up with a bright accent of cilantro. The dish is expertly composed and presented as a work of art.
For my entree, I chose the Black Cod Saikyo Miso (usually $23). The butterfish was marinated in Saikyo miso, a special miso from Kyoto. At the edges of the plate were dots of den miso, slightly stronger in flavor. On top sat Hajikani, a pickled ginger eaten at the end to cleanse the palate. I loved the rich and creamy fish paired with the delicate saikyo miso.
My mom ordered the Sashimi Dinner (usually $38). It consisted of an artfully displayed selection of hamachi (yellowtail tuna), hotate (scallop), maguro (ahi), salmon, tako (octopus) and uhu.
After the entrees came the Salmon and Avocado hand roll ($7). In the Nobu tradition, the sushi is served after the entree, as a simple way to end the meal. Chef Nobu believes that sushi will always be sushi, and should be saved for the end. Well, in my opinion, sushi is a little more than just sushi at Nobu. When the plate came to the table, we could immediately smell the fragrant nori--an indication of its quality.
The meal ended with our dessert, warm roasted pineapple with a brown sugar cinnamon crumble, topped off with Calpico (Japanese yogurt drink) ice cream. It was a nice mixture of tangy and sweet, warm and cold.
We had a wonderful experience at Nobu. The entire wait staff were more than accommodating and the setting offered a sense of glamour for Mom and I to spend time together. The dishes were filled with fresh and clean flavors, allowing us to leave feeling light and satisfied as we drove home for the night. I would surely visit this place again for a special occasion.
2233 Helumoa Road
Honolulu, HI 96815