I told my partner that I will take him out for dinner last night, somewhere at Crown. The winter weather was…, shall I say as it should be winter – “miserable” – cold, wet and depressing. Nice if there is a wood fireplace roaring in front of a living room. But, we live in a high rise apartment complex in the city now. Convenient in every word with great entertainment at our footsteps. We are only 3 minutes across from Crown – the liveliest, busiest and greatest entertainment precinct in Melbourne. It is massive and stretches along the Yarra River, overlooking North of the CBD with amazing city skylines. There are many restaurants to choose from at Crown – from budget price at the Food Court to Premium Restaurants like “Nobu“.
This was our first Nobu experience.
I knew very little about Nobu, except that it is one of the most recognisable Japanese restaurant in the world. There was so much hype about this restaurant when the press released Nobuyuki Matsuhisa will open his first world renowned restaurant in Australia in Melbourne. That was back in 2007.
I knew eating out at Nobu will be expensive. I told my partner that it will be my treat. It has been a long time since we have been to a very stylish, upmarket fine dining restaurant. I need to know if the food is as good as its pricing, or is it another “brand name” that you dig deep into your pocket so you can be seen.
I have no reservation. It was a spontaneous decision after watching the long awaited Ridley Scott’s sci-fi movie, “Prometheus” at Crown. I thought there are plenty of choices at Crown, and if we can’t get in we can go somewhere else.
We arrived at the entrance and were greeted by a couple of beautiful girls dressed in long black dress. My immediate impression was a very classy place, dark, fun and loud. Straight ahead in front of us is the floor level – a huge bar with bar and table seating and loud music. I asked one of the girl for a table for two. Sorry. I have no booking. One of the girl said we can sit at the Sushi Bar. Great. I thought that was even better. We can see the Sushi Chefs in action. My partner was equally pleased and said we don’t have to look at each other! We accepted the seating choice available to us. The other girl offered to take our jackets. A good first impression.
We were then escorted down a flight of wide dark polished wooden steps to the lower floor of the dining room. Half way down the steps, the sensation of sound and noise gave me a jolt in my head. There were shouts of “irasshaimase” from all the FOH staffs across the room. My gosh! Talked about making an entrance. It was almost a bit much.
The dining room is dark from all the dark polished walls and floor and dim lighting. The most brightly lighted part of the dining room is at the long Sushi Bar with rows of downlight projecting onto the bench. The atmosphere was sophisticated but not snobbish. We were ushered to one end of the Sushi Bar closest to the kitchen entrance.
We sat in front of the Head Sushi Chef who recently moved from America. He was friendly and told us if we have any questions about the food, we can asked him. Our waitress was a beautiful Japanese girl. Friendly and knowledgeable of the food and menu. She explained to us the menu in her less than fluent English, which we struggled to understand. First she asked if have eaten at Nobu in the past, and whether we understand the concept of the restaurant menu. We were given 3 choices – the dinner set, the Chef’s Choice (leave it to the Chef), or select your own. Whichever choice we were going with, it was going to be an expensive dinner. The question is how expensive will we go to get that Nobuism experience.
We went for our own selection for the ride and experience. We asked our waitress to explain some of the choices and ended with a warm dish of eel harumaki with caviar, a Sashimi dinner set and a Peruvian inspired beef and chicken anti-cucho. She was quick to suggest that we should start with the cold dish of sashimi set, follow by eel harumaki and end with the meat anti-cucho. It was a culinary journey experience starting with something light and refreshing and ending with a strong lingering all rounded flavours in our palate.
While we studied the extensive menu, our Head Sushi Chef placed a translucent blueish bowl of traditional Japanese boiled edamame – a lightly boiled immature soybean in pods – served with sprinkles of sea salt. Compliment from the house.
This was the second time I have tried the edamame. The first time I had was at another Japanese restaurant in South Melbourne. I wasn’t sure how to eat them. But I soon learnt. I guess the waitress, at that time, was too polite to suggest to us how we should eat them. So it was a trial and error. The first couple were very messy. I threw them into my mouth and started munching! Wrong, wrong! Then I realised all I had to do was gently pressed both my lips on the tip and side of the pod and with skill squeezed the beans one at a time out of the pod. It was an art, like everything else in a Japanese cuisine. The edamame was poached nicely and not overly salted. They were a nice and healthy way to start.
The Sashimi Dinner set was beautifully presented on a big round plate. There were five different types of fish sashimi and scallop skillfully sliced and executed on the plate with two large Japanese herb leaves “Shiso” or Perilla the most common name. They resembles the stinging nettle. Each of the sashimi was delicate and fresh. They just melt in the mouth. The scallop sashimi was so fresh that we were both extremely surprise how delicate and beautiful it tastes. We ended our sashimi with a shiso leaf each in our mouths. It was also a first experience for us. The flavour was intense and aromatic, slightly pungent, minty and sweet at the same time. At $50 for the sashimi dinner set, it is expensive. But, after each taste and each bite it was a wonderful experience that will stay with me for a while.
Our next course was a warm dish – eel harumaki in a wrapped spring roll skin, deep fried and sliced in two and topped with caviar and fresh yuzu miso. At $28, this was a very special spring roll with expensive ingredients to go with it, like the caviar.
We ended our dinner selection with a Peruvian “Anti-Cucho” style type of meat skewers – a selection of beef at $14 and chicken at $12. Anti-Cucho is like “Satay” to me as a Malaysian. Both the meat were well marinated and grilled to perfection. They were moist, succulent and very tender. I am not a beef fan, but this beef were absolutely delicious. The sauces were spicy and tangy. A great way to round up our dinner as the taste and flavour still lingers in my mouth, even after washing down with a $60 bottle of a gorgeous Riesling.
Our total bill came to $173.90 including GST – the food was $94.54 and the drink was $63.55. Overall, I was happy with my Nobuism experience. It was a delight and a journey. It was expensive but not as expensive as I thought for the high quality produce of the food.
To end up our experience, we were fortunate to meet the fairly new Head Chef of Nobu Melbourne, Christopher Shane Chan, previously the Sous Chef since 2007. A handsome, dynamic and yet calm, and friendly young man. Chris personally took us into his huge commercial kitchen on a personal tour. It was massive inside, and the largest kitchen among all the restaurants at Crown. It has separate sections – the main kitchen for making the hot food, the pastry section for desserts (all made in house) and another section for washing.