Archive for November 15th, 2006

About a year and a half ago, a few of my friends and I lunched at Tribeca’s Nobu.  I fell head over heels in love with the place.  For my birthday this year, I thought I’d recreate the love by going to Nobu 57.  However, I’ve been putting off writing about my experience at Nobu 57 because I was sadly disappointed.  I couldn’t wait to have the black miso cod again after all this time, and after tasting others that don’t quite live up to its name’s connotations in my mind.  When my sister volunteered to take me, I was estastic because I’ve been waiting to check out the new space, and this way, I wouldn’t have to foot the bill. 

David Rockwell, the designer for 57 actually lives a floor above my old boss, but I never got the chance to meet him [damn my boss’ private entrance].  When you walk through the big half wooden, half thick glass door, you are greeted by the bar, and have to go upstairs for the dining area.  The dining area is very spacious and floor space was not cramped because the tables were well spread apart.  The only thing that I found weird about the set up is that they have these half booth type things; there’s a bench with the split into two, and two regular chairs on the opposite side.  We sat at one of these half booths and felt that we were way too close to our neighbors than we would have liked.  The two next to us was definitely trying to have an intimate meal of sorts, and I don’t think it helped to hear every part of our conversation.

nobu outside nobu inside
the space outside  //  the space inside (part chic, part avant garde)

The waitress introduced the cuisine as Japanese-Caribbean; this was the first I’ve heard Nobu described as such.  I thought it was just “New Japanese,” and was not previously nor am I now aware of any Caribbean traits in the food.  Hmm..  now I’m swearing I heard wrong because the website clearly states “new style Japanese food.”  Either way, the waitress told us that they like to serve everything family style so we should get a couple of dishes to share… which is how I usually eat anyway…  

Before I question my hearing some more, let me talk about the food.  Originally, I wanted to do their omakase because I read somewhere that certain aspects of their omakase menu is even better than Morimoto’s, but decided to do a la carte instead.  Overall, everything was too salty and overpowered by soy sauce.  My palate likes salty elements, but this was even too much for it.  The level of sodium in the dishes severely kicked my ass – and my sister’s.  The presentation was very appealing though- all the colors were quite eye catching.

 We started with the salmon skin salad as an appetizer.  The salmon skin was crispy with good portion of salt cured dried salmon on it.  The salmon was lightly grilled and wasn’t too hard as sometimes dried fish is.  The salmon came apart fairly easily with the use of my chopsticks.  There were a few good sized pieces around the bed of mesclun greens, which were topped with carrots and sesame seeds and some dried fish flakes.  I liked how the salmon was placed along the outside of the salad tower, so I could see the actual portion of salmon.  The salmon skin was not too salty in it’s own right, but since the salad came with a dressing made with a soy sauce base, it made the whole salad salty.  I’d even go for a typical Japanese teriakyi sauce than to have my salad drown in sodium.  Come to think of it, if there was just a light drizzle of low sodium soy sauce, [or one of the nice aged ones Nobu has lying around], it wouldn’t have been so bad.  The soy sauce just took over all my senses and I couldn’t concentrate on the actual salad. 

salmon skin salad 

There was no way I was going to leave Nobu without having the black miso cod, and that is just what I ordered.  I also wanted the chilean sea bass, but we really weren’t too keen on ordering all fish for dinner.  My cod looks different from one in my memory [where are the blacken sides?!  This looks like miso covered regular cod, but then again I’ve seen back cod look like this before too- I guess I was just expecting exactly what I had all those months ago].  Did you know that black cod has antifreeze proteins in its blood?  Maybe that’s why it tastes so good.  Anyways, the cod meat had a very soft, smooth, silky texture, and I literally slurped it down.  Unlike the salad however, the saikyo miso was not salty, but it was a touch too sweet.  Someone probably added too much sugar to this batch of miso.  I was saddened that I didn’t experience the same foodgasm I did the first time I had black miso cod.  The dish was still good, and I’d definitely order it again, but it just didn’t live up to my mind’s hype.

black miso cod
(from Nobu’s website)- how the fish was presented the first time I had it

 black miso cod black miso cod 2
black miso cod from nobu 57

I also decided to order something I normally wouldn’t; beef.  I blame the iron chef.  I forgot for a split second there that though I’m more open to meat now- it’s just the kobe beef I’m partial to.  It also slipped my mind that I was disappointed by the meat during my last Nobu visit.  By the time I remembered this, I already placed my order in for the beef toban yaki.  This is a dish of sliced beef, asparagus, and enoki and shiitake mushrooms in what I’m going to call a soy sauce based sauce because I’m quite sure there was something else in the sauce, I just couldn’t make it out by taste.  Everything came in a toban, which is the name of the platter used to cook the beef.  The concept is that the beef comes medium raw and would continue to cook to the customer’s desired state as long as it stayed in the toban.  My sister and I wanted a medium/medium well meat, but we couldn’t figure out a way to plop the meat face down without drowning in the sauce.  I thought of spooning the sauce out and use it as a dipping sauce, but we had no spoons, and even if we did, we had nothing to spoon the sauce into.  As a result, the sauce seeped into the beef and it was the saltiest thing I’ve ever tasted [saltier than the salmon skin salad even].  I realized not only didn’t I like the sauce, but I didn’t like the taste of the beef either.  I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about the beef.  I’m thinking it has a lot to do with the way the sauce interacted with the meat that I didn’t like.  I tried to eat as much of it as possible as not to waste it; the mushrooms and asparagus helped to cover the saltiness and the odd flavor of the beef.  Eventually, my sister and I gave up.

beef toban 

We decided not to order dessert because nothing really caught our eye.  She had the bento box before, but that comes with chocolate and I was not about to go to the other extreme and sugar myself up after my insides swam in salt for the last hour. 

In the end, I regret not ordering any sushi.  I remember a lot of people saying that you’re not suppose to come to places like this for the sushi, but for the food.  Recently, I’ve heard a lot of people actually giving praise to Nobu’s sushi.  Maybe I should’ve ordered a roll or two. Mm.. spicy tuna roll. 

Ultimately, this experience made me think about Anthony Bourdain’s book, A Cook’s Tour about his search for the perfect meal.  No matter how one tries to recreate and manipulate current circumstances to reflect a previous experience, it will never be the same.  Bourdain talks about how he’s trying to duplicate his first foodgasm in France and realizes that no matter how hard he tries to prepare himself for it, times have changed, and so has he, and he won’t be able to relive that experience again.  That’s how I feel about Nobu’s black miso cod this time.  I sayNobu’s because I’ve had the dish elsewhere before, but it was at Nobu’s that first gave me the euphoric experience.



It seems that it wasn’t only me who didn’t have a good experience at Nobu 57, the chowmaster felt gypped too.

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