Friday, 10 December 2010

Nobu at the Ritz

About one of the first fusion chefs: Matsuhisa Nobu.

Matsuhisa Nobu is a famous, creative Japanese chef who has made a name for himself all over the world. Opening his first restaurant in L.A., he went on to open others in NY, London, China and Japan and other locations. He studied in Peru and is one of the first chefs to create what we know as "fusion"--a style of cooking that melds the cuisines of two extremely different regions in the world--such as Peruvian with Japanese. He may have even invented the spicy tuna handroll as he often uses hot spices in his Japanese dishes.

The Ritz was hosting Nobu as a guest chef for two months and I had to go to re-experience the master once more. I had dined at his restaurant in New York and loved it. In fact, a Nobu opened in Paris for about 2 years (which I went to several times) but due to problems with management, it was forced to close. Nobu is less successful in Japan as the Japanese prefer pristine classical preparations of their cuisine. Not so in other countries. Of the two London Nobus, one has a Michelin star.

At the Ritz, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that the extensive menu did have the requisite "omakase"--chef's choice of his specialties to create a menu, or that guests could order à la carte.

I went for the omakase and was pleased to taste among the specialties that I remember so well. To start was a salmon tartare with caviar, and a small yamamomo (small mountain peach) as a garnish. It was a lovely dish. Next came very thinly sliced bass that had been quickly seared and served with olive and sesame oils. Nobu calls this preparation sushi new style as the fish is not completely raw and the dish has been modernized.

There was a wonderful sashimi salad with tuna, scallops and shizo leaf--a leaf which is very aromatic and pleasant to the taste. No Nobu menu can go without the famous signature black cod in miso which has been marinated in miso for 24 hours, lightly grilled and napped with some soy sauce. The fish is extremely flavorful and moist.

The main course was Wagyu beef in a balsamic teriyaki--both sweet and tart. The beef was lightly seared and served with a variety of fresh vegetables: an excellent preparation.

After that came a wonderful sushi selection and miso soup. I also ordered off the omakase menu a spicy tuna handroll which, as I said, I believe Nobu invented.

To go with the meal, I chose a Chablis as the prices for the sakes were extremely steep. It was a Domaine de Vauroux 2008 and at a reasonable price, went beautifully with the entire meal.

Dessert was light and wonderful: a Whisky Cappuccino served in a small demi tasse cup. Starting at the bottom were layers of crunchy speculoos, coffee mousse, vanilla ice cream and a whisky cream. It was light and flavorful and very creative. I have a feeling that the Ritz pastry chef conceived of this course.