Variety

Re-visiting Nobu

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on: May 26, 2011

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The first time I visited the Japanese fine-dining restaurant Nobu at Dubai's Atlantis The Palm, after a couple of starters, including the most amazing Edamame (immature soybeans in the pod, boiled in water along with salt), and served unshelled on the table, while biting into delicious Rock Shrimp Tempura, I had to get up and excuse myself to my host, Ashley McBain, Vice President, Public Relations, Atlantis The Palm. I had arrived in Dubai in the afternoon around 3 p.m., completed my lunch at the Rostang, the French Brasserie at the resort, which is the brainchild of two Michelin star Chef Michel Rostang at 4.30 p.m. — Ravioli and Tiramisu were the highlights of that meal. And at 7 p.m. there was a glass of Chardonnay at Ossiano where I had interviewed the three Michelin star Chef Santi Santamaria (who met with a sudden, tragic death in Singapore recently) followed by a glass of Champagne with the hotel's Beverage director.

The thing about sponsored trips, especially those hosted by the hospitality industry, is that they pack into your schedule and your tummy as much as they can.

So dinner at Nobu at 8 p.m. was asking for trouble and trouble I did have sleeping that night after so much food and spirit! But I made a promise to Ashley that my next trip to Dubai would see me return to Nobu for those heavenly shrimps.

Well, recently I did return there to the very classy restaurant, where the décor is very contemporary, very chic in stark shades of brown, dashes of red and a touch of beige. Not a fan of sushi, the sushi bar had to be given a complete miss, something that was not appreciated much by Herve Courtot, the chef de cuisine at the Atlantis' Nobu, one of the 24 Nobu restaurants set up by the Japanese Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa.

Ashley was once again the gracious hostess, and Chef Courtot explained how it was difficult to get a table without prior booking at this massive 220-seat diner, which is immensely popular among the locals as well as the guests of Atlantis. The hotel, by the way, is seeing quite a trickle of Indian visitors to Dubai.

On the most popular dishes at Nobu, Chef Courtot says they are the Black Cod with Miso and the Yellow Tail Sashimi with Jalapenos. “Sushi is very popular too; I was quite surprised because only till a few years ago, the local people did not eat any raw meat.”

There are a lot of vegetarian guests, including many Indians, who flock to this Nobu, “and we make special efforts to give them a wide choice,” he says.

His favourite is, of course, the King Crab. But what catches the eye of every guest is the giant, live lobster on display. Imported from Australia, the live creature weighing a full 7 kg is carried on a platter with a flourish by one of the waiters, and it is sold. The price tag… a cool AED 5000 (nearly Rs 60,000). “These are farm raised in Australia and their meat is fantastic,” says George Lipson, Assistant Manager, Nobu.

The chef who has gone to the kitchen soon sends the starters; delectable Nobu-style wasabi lobster tacos with sour cream, Edamame, Crispy Sardine; Blue Crab Tempura with jalapeno dressing and Chicken Wings.

But the piece de resistance is Salmon New Style Sashimi, which comes with a citrus sauce… a mixture of Yuzu juice (Japanese citrus) and soya sauce, topped with some ginger and sesame seeds. Hot sesame oil is then dribbled on top of the thin salmon slices and the result just melts in the mouth, triggering an aroma that lingers on the palate for quite a while.

Till of course the Rock Shrimp Tempura comes to the table; the same offering I couldn't do justice to during my first visit to Nobu last year!

The Rock Shrimp Tempura is a classic Nobu appetiser at its restaurants around the world. Explains Lipson, “This is a different kind of shrimp… a little more pulpy, little more juicy.” The shrimps are lightly battered in Japanese tempura flour which makes them a little crispy and then they go through a spicy, egg-based sauce with Peruvian chilly paste. “For me what really makes this dish is that it is tossed in Japanese citrus juice…,” he adds.

But is it fried in oil, I ask.

“Well, we say it has got a light oil wash! It's very light… the way Japanese tempura batter works is that it has to be very, very cold; super chill. But at the same time you don't over-mix it so it stays clumpy with little flour pockets inside the batter so that when the batter hits the hot oil, it explodes. It pops open and that's what makes it so light and crispy.”

After getting so much gnan on the shrimp tempura, I dig into the Alaskan black cod marinated with miso paste; the fillets of the fish are done just right and it is already too much food for one evening.

The meal is wrapped up with passion fruit sake which is light and really refreshing and a mixed fruit platter with a grapefruit sorbet; there is papaya, guava, rambutan, passion fruit, pineapple, dragon fruit and kumquat (small citrus fruits with sweet spongy rind and somewhat acidic taste) on the platter. Dessert comprises Mochi, a sweet rice cake with flavoured ice cream inside, tiramisu and a creamless cheesecake that is very light and airy, almost like a mousse.

Published on May 26, 2011
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