Thursday, March 31, 2011

Good Eats: Nobu Waikiki

This is the famed restaurant chain from Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa whose cuisine focuses on Pacific fusion with a Peruvian twist.  I've eaten at the San Diego branch and my personal opinion is that Waikiki branch is better.  The biggest difference: ingredients are fresh and local.  Keep in mind, that each location focuses on the regional ingredients and tastes so this is a matter of personal preference.


View Larger Map Located at 2233 Helumoa Road inside the Parc Hotel 
Nobu is located in the Waikiki Parc Hotel across the street from the Halekulani Hotel.  It's in a cul-de-sac near the beach between some of the bigger hotels.  I'd recommend valet parking, street parking here is difficult, if not impossible to find.  I'd also recommend reservations.  You can call 1-808-237-6999, email waikiki@noburestaurants.com, or reserve a table through Open Table on your iPhone/iPad/Droid Phone.  Hours are from 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm Sunday through Thursday and 5:30 to 10:30 pm Friday and Saturday.  The bar is open everyday from 5:00 pm to 12:00 am.

Walking past the bar, you notice the impressive settings.  They say the chandeliers are inspired by sea urchins.  Nobu has a long list of awards and also has a long story behind it.  I won't get into all the details, but Chef Matsuhisa had to overcome several setbacks early in his career.  After one of his restaurants burned down, Chef Matsuhisa came to Los Angeles to work and settle his debts.  After nine years, he managed to pay off his bills and successfully opened his own restaurant, Matsuhisa.  It was through the success of his restaurant that Chef Matsuhisa met actor Robert DeNiro and Hollywood producer Meir Teper.  Together they convinced Chef Matsuhisa to open Nobu.  

Yes, Nobu is famous for their miso butterfish (cod), but we wanted to try something different.  So we tried the omakase (chef's choice).  We had two options for the omakase: regular and deluxe.  The difference between the two?  You get kobe beef (wagyu-style) with the deluxe option.  Being on vacation, we had to try it.  The first course was an otoro ahi tuna tartar, topped with caviar, sitting in a wasabi-soy sauce.  Otoro is higher grade of fatty tuna belly.  This was a excellent start, the richness of the otoro and caviar was balanced, but not overwhelmed, by the wasabi-soy sauce.  To finish, eat the yama momo (mountain peach) to cleanse the palate.  Be careful, it has a pit. So don't swallow the seed by accident.  

The second course is thinly slice red snapper with warm olive and sesame oil, chives, sesame seeds, and a tempura tomato.  I think the snapper is served raw and cooks in the warm oil as it is served.  Very tasty and the texture of the tempura tomato adds a nice touch.  

The third course was Kampachi sushi with an onion and soy sauce.  Kampachi is in the same family as yellowtail.  I liked the sushi and thought the sauce was very good.  Eu-jeania liked the sauce, but didn't prefer this fish.  She thought the Kampachi  was thick and dense, much like tuna, and would've preferred a softer fish.  If you prefer a softer fish, you might want to ask if you can substitute a dish.    

The next course was Alaskan King Crab tempura topped with red onions, resting in ponzu sauce and thinly sliced jalapeno peppers.  Wow.  Alaskan King Crab done tempura style.  That was a treat.  The jalapenos under the tempura was a spicy surprise, but didn't burn my palate.  The only complaint was from someone else (she'll remain unnamed) that said the sauce wasn't sweet enough.  I thought it was good.  

The next course is the Waygu-style beef.  Remember, it's Waygu-style, so not the same thing from Japan.  The steak was tender, but not as soft as kobe beef that I remember.  Regardless, I still that it was a good dish.  I think the that's a red spring onion on the side.  That is meant to be a palate cleanser and only the white part is suppose to be eaten.  The red part of the onion becomes fibrous, but I didn't care and it still tasted good.  

The next course is the assorted sushi and mushroom soup.  I wish the toro (tuna) was otoro instead of chu toro, but it was still good.  On the far right was the King Crab sushi.  That was something different and a nice treat.  The pleasant surprise for this course was the mushroom soup on the left.  The soup was a clear, miso(?) based soup that was very refreshing, tasty, and has a cooked shrimp hidden below the mushrooms.  

And finally the dessert, Dolce Marscapone.  Think of it as deconstructed cheesecake.  If you didn't catch a previous post, deconstructing a dish means that the same or similar ingredients are used, but presented in a different way.  You get a dish that looks different, but tastes the same.  In this case, it is marscapone cheesecake topped with honey caviar (that's the small globules of honey with gold flakes), liikoi sauce with seeds on the side, and almond and olive oil crumble.  A small portion of each is meant to be eaten with each spoonful.  It tastes just like cheesecake.

Remember, the menu depends on the regional ingredients.  If you want to check out more of the menu, visit their site at Nobu Waikiki.  All in all, a very good meal with good ambiance.  I'd recommend coming here, even if you've eaten at the other Nobu branches.  

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