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Posts Tagged ‘Nobu restaurants’

Cuisine: Japanese

Visit: February 2012

Price: Medium for the superb quality you get (except when you order the abalone – a rare type of sea snail –  which is always very expensive).

Artichoke salad

Artichoke salad

Chef: Nobuyuki Matsuhisa (known as Nobu) is a legend in Japanese cooking worldwide. His partnership with the actor Robert De Niro and restaurateur Drew Nieporent bore the famous global network of Nobu restaurants known for the chic atmosphere and innovative cuisine. Nevertheless, Matsuhisa was and still is his baby. He usually stays in the first one in Los Angeles, but supposedly from time to time he visits its second branch in Aspen, which is almost as good as his most cherished L.A. baby.

Atmosphere: The Aspen’s Matsuhisa is also more casual than the usual fancy Nobus elsewhere. It is quite similar to its LA base, yet bigger and with a large bar just by the entrance downstairs. Large Tv screens coveting the local football and cricket fans watching their teams over a decadent japanese meal, make the place very welcoming. Some locals just pop for a bottle of Asahi (japanese beer) and a small snack, yet the food is like for sheikh in terms of quality. These contrasting aspects of the most fashionable and for years the most popular restaurant in Aspen make it special and attractive. You will see young folks with their ski heats, middle-aged elegant ladies and older comfortable couples enjoying the food or just the buzzing atmosphere. Book ahead otherwise you might not get a seat.

New style salmon sashimi

New style salmon sashimi

Food: Nobu’s creative and often high taste-profile (flattering the American taste) cooking mastery shows off at his namesake restaurants in the most vibrant colors. Like a rainbow his dishes cover the entire spectrum of taste from the delicate and lighter side to deep, rich and intense plates. It is wise to start light and move to the more powerful dishes so your taste buds manage to detect the suppleness of some of the delicate fish and seafood creations such as the refreshing peruvian style tiraditos (which Nobu learned during his time living in Lima many years ago) or plain sashimi. The staff knows the best in what order to serve the food and if you order a number of dishes at once they will bring them in an appropriate sequence. The New style sashimis are already moving towards the richer side as the fish is marinated in an oil-based sauce with sesame so get them after the simpler lime and lemon based courses such as Tomato ceviche or the fish tiraditos. My favorite from these more intense creations is the New style salmon sashimi. The fatty salmon is smooth and goes hand in hand with the oily sauce. A refreshing white wine with higher acidity such as Riesling is my best choice of wine with it.

Mushroom salad

Mushroom salad with lobster

Nobu does wonders with mushrooms. In the Nobu chain as well as in LA I usually order the sizzling hot Mushroom tobanyaki, but in Aspen they had something I have not seen on the menus before so I had to try the Mushroom salad with lobster. It proved to be a great choice as most food at Matsuhisa. The thousand flavors of the mushrooms showed that these forest gems top up even the best lobster in the world, the Maine lobster. Although the soft and juicy texture of the Maine lobster, especially the claws served with the salad, was superb, it were the mushrooms that were the most intriguing. Japanese and Chinese mushrooms taste so different from their peers in Europe and the Americas and they tend to work better with the Asian cuisine. By contrast, this warm mushroom salad with Asian-style dark sauce, American lobster and asparagus was the proof of a wonderful marriage between the Western and eastern ingredients.

We had many more dishes and I can recommend all of them since there was not a single one that I did not like. I have only highlighted my personal bests at “Matsu”, how the locals tend to call the restaurant, and it is up to you and mainly your taste preferences for which dishes you will go. the staff usually knows what is the most popular or particularly tasty on the day of your visit so let them advise you. Do not forget to mention any allergies you may suffer from since many dishes are quite complex and you can hardly recognize what is inside without being told so. One thing is sure: it is all tasty stuff.

Mochi ice cream

Mochi ice cream

If you are a fan of japanese sweets then try some of the traditional japanese desserts such as the Mochi ice cream. Thess gooey dumpling-like buns filled with frozen creamy ice cream are all home-made. You can select daily from the available flavors. The green tea and vanilla never disappoint, but chocolate or li-chi may seduce some chocoholics as well as exotic flavors-seeking adventurers.

Drinks: The wine list has selections to go well with the style of food offered at Matsuhisa. We usually go for an oaky California Chardonnay. On special days when we want to splurge a bit we get a bottle of Kistler Chardonnay that is creamy, rich, yet balanced with tremendous aftertaste. Beer is a popular choice of many man (I rarely see a woman having beer with japanese food) and there is a very good selection of not only Japanese brews. Not in the mood for alcohol? The Nobu’s own japanese green tea selection, which you can also buy, is really good and its cancer-defeating and youth prolonging antioxidants will leave you refreshed and in a good yet relaxed mood.

Opening Hours: Mon-Sun for dinner from 6:00–10:00 pm.

Address:  303 E Main St, Aspen, CO 81611

Contact: Tel: +1 (970) 544-6628

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Cuisine: Japanese – contemporary.

Since the global chain of high-end Japanese restaurants Nobu closed down a couple of years ago in Paris, the dining climate in “The city of lights” (“La Ville-Lumière”) has shifted immensely. The locals and visitors alike are open to a more cosmopolitan food and seek a lighter alternative to the usually heavy lunch and dinner at a French restaurant. The Asian cuisine is currently thriving in Paris with Japanese catching up with the recent popularity of Thai food. Orient Extreme is one of the leaders of the contemporary Japanese restaurants in Paris. With its chef once leading the local Nobu the Orient Extreme has got also the Nobu’s feel.

Orient Extreme ambience

Visit: June 2012

Price: medium to high (depending on which dishes you order).

Chef: Toyofumi Ozuru as a young chef trained in Tokyo and then moved to Paris, where he headed a number of Japanese restaurants including the globally famous Nobu. His style is fresh and contemporary, in the fashion of the Nobu restaurants (excluding Nobu Matsuhisa in LA).

Atmosphere: Very Nobu style – simple, yet furnished with high quality materials, comfortable chairs and wooden tables. The room is humming with glamorous people.
You can also sit outside, but I do not like it as much as you sit just across from the RTL broadcaster’s office building so it spoils a bit the atmosphere. For the inside dress accordingly – anything stylish including cool jeans and nice shirt is allowed.

Food: New style sashimi of sea bream is one of the most popular dishes of the contemporary Japanese cuisine. It is a raw fish carpacio served with green chilli and cilantro. At the Orient Extreme they prepare it very well. Using the freshest fish is crucial and getting the balance of seasonings right guarantees the utmost pleasure from this dish.

New style sashimi

Many Japanese chefs including Nobu Matsuhisa spent some time in Peru and were inspired by the local cuisine. Later, they spread this South American cuisine with its nourishing ingredients across the world. The Peruvian Ceviche with lobster on the Orient Extreme’s menu is one of such Peruvian musings. Zesty and crisp dish with lots of onion and lime, it is ideal to mix with seafood such as lobster. It is a tricky pairing with wine, but I would go for an oaky Chardonnay with a less dominant acidity to balance the mouth-squeezing sauce. It is one of my favourite Peruvian dishes I enjoy anywhere if the fish or seafood is fresh.

Lobster ceviche(closer)&Japanese seaweed with seafood salad

Tataki is another hit of current Japanese cooking. It is a half-cooked (gently seared) slice of fish with oil-based sauce. The salmon tataki we had was perfectly balanced. Cooked lightly just as it should be and it melted in my mouth easily leaving long and intense aftertaste.

After all that fish, one desires something like a salad. We have ordered two of the seaweed salads to compare them. I preferred the first one – Sunomono KYURI WAKAME. It is a Japanese seaweed salad with cucumber and Japanese Vinaigrette. Refreshing salad ideal between the uncooked and cooked dishes.

Salmon tataki & Sunomono KYURI WAKAME salad

The KAISEN SALAD was a bit too complex – Japanese seaweed salad with lemon and sashimi moriawase – a mix of various fish and seafood. The shrimps were delicate and juicy, the salmon was rich and melted slowly on the tongue and the salmon eggs burst softly leaving their juice to enliven your palate. The weakness of this dish was the white fish as it tasted a bit too fishy and had a bit too chewy texture. Underlined and summed up it was not the kind of salad I would want as it was more about the sashimi and not about the vegetables.

The Spicy tuna sushi on a crispy rice might not be on the menu, but if a Japanese food connoisseur orders it, he should get it as it became a staple on most of the contemporary Japanese menus. At the Orient Express it is magnificent so after ordering the first pair we had to get another one. The chopped fish with chilly sauce covering the fried bun of rice is a rich-tasting, mouth-filling and highly addictive sushi invention. My mind crossed a comparison to Monaco’s Buddha Bar take on this dish, which my parter always orders without thinking sometimes twice (although there they serve five pieces as one order, so he ends up eating a lot of them). This dish requires a richer, fuller wine so do not hesitate to move to red if you started with a crisp white.

Moving to the world of pasta (but the Italian type, although described as such) we ordered Gyoza – toasted ravioli with various fillings. We chose gyoza filled with chicken and vegetables. Authentic and  tasty warm meal ideal for sharing.

Looking into other people’s plates is found to be improper in most of cultures including in my native Czech Republic, yet I must confess this is the only etiquette rule I keep breaking regularly. It is just too tempting to peak on the neighbors’ table in search for an inspiration. This time I saw one of my favorite baked Japanese dishes and I had to order it as it looked so seductively. The NASU Dengaku is an eggplant gratin with sweet miso paste. It is so rich and its texture is so delicate and savory that if I had to have only one cooked dish from the menu, I would go for this one.

Drinks: Sake or wine? Both are great with japanese food, although with wine one has to be quite selective. French Burgundy and white wines from Alsace are a great match to this food. We got a bottle of Chassagne Montrachet, 2006 from Michel Picard and were more that satisfied. This Chardonnay worked nicely with most of the dishes.

Opening hours & contact: Mon-Sat: 12noon-3pm; Dinner: 8pm-11pm; Tel: +(33) 01 47 20 91 58

Address: 21 rue Bayard, 75008, Paris

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Cuisine: Japanese

Visit: March 2012

Location: 129N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills 90211, CA, US

Price: high yet it is the best in LA, it also depends on which dish you order

Chef: Nobuyuki Matsuhisa (known as Nobu) is a legend in Japanese cooking worldwide. His partnership with actor Robert De Niro and restaurateur Drew Nieporent bore the famous global network of Nobu restaurants known for the chic atmosphere and innovative cuisine. Matsuhisa was and still is his baby. He and his wife greet the guests and look after the kitchen on most of the nights.

New style sashimi

Food: Unique&innovative, tasty, crafty and super-famous. There are so many great dishes on the regular menu that I would have to dedicate a page just to name them all. I would elevate the ‘New style sashimi’ such as white fish and salmon on an oily and warming sauce adding the dish richness, easier palatability and fulness, undue in traditional sashimi .’Salmon tartare with caviar’just melts on you palate like the most mellow ice cream. The sashimi tacos are fun, light and crispy. Ceviche (raw fish diced in cubes and served with a lime-based sauce) and tiradito (thinly sliced sashimi-style dish with spicy sauce) come from Nobu’s peruvian era, when he worked as a chef in Lima. His Rock shrimp tempura (fried shrimps with a mayonnaise-based sauce) beats most of his competitors. It is crisp yet juicy and the sauce is so creamy and tasty that one roars for a glass of an intense white wine such as a California Chardonnay with a hint of oak. The ‘King Crab Tempura with Amazu Jalapeno’ again reaches across the boundaries of one country’s cuisine. The Mexican meets japanese in this refreshing snack.

I could go forever, but I will cut it short – order Matsuhisa’s special dishes rather than simple sashimi and sushi as these you can get elsewhere. His mastery of mixing ingredients and creating unforgettable combinations will charm the palate of any thoughtful food connoisseur. If you are not concerned about how much do you spend on that occasion and want something different (very Asian), you can also try the ‘Baby Abalone with Light Garlic Sauce’. This for Westerners unusual seafood is so tender and tasty with the garlic sauce, that you might add to the list of your favorite shells.

Tofu mascarpone

Every day there are special dishes on the white board surfing through the restaurant as the waiters bring it to the inquisitive guests. I highly recommend to go for at least one of these. On the last night we ate there we got the steamy hot ‘Tofu mascarpone’ and that was a hit! I have never had a more tasty warm tofu dish. Combining an Italian staple such as mascarpone with an Asian variation of cheese wich does not have anything in common with cheese except its color is a daring step, but it works! The Tofu mascarpone got such a positive feedback that evening that it might be included in the regular menu. Needless to add – I pray for it.

Of course, not every day, all the dishes are perfect, but it is rare to find something at least not good enough. I was disappointed once by their ‘Mushroom Toban-yaki’ or the mushrooms cooked in a sizzling sauce as the mushrooms were not cooked enough so they did not absorb enough of the sauce I mainly love the dish for.

If one dish disappoints you then having a dessert will fix all your sorrows. I love the ‘green tea ice cream’ and the japanese ‘mochi’. Mochi is like an ice cream dumpling. Various kinds of ice cream from mango to green tea are wrapped in a chewy paste with neutral taste so it does not disturb the flavors of the ice cream inside. It is refreshing, delicate and light after a multi-course dinner. A perfect period to end a great dinner.

Drinks: Great wine, sake and beer list. They make also cocktails with sake. Nobu’s green tea which is also sold at the premises. From wines we usually order the Californian rich Chardonnay Kistler or Far Niente. The food goes very well with Alsatian Pinot Gris, Riesling or Gewurtztraminer as the sommelier once disclosed in an interview I did with him. The drink which surprised me on the list the most was a glass of milk. It seems that Matsuhisa keeps children and their nutrition in mind as well.

Desert:selection of Mochi

Ambience: Casual meets super-rich. The restaurant is very low-key and comfortable. You can wear anything from jeans and snickers to a nice evening party dress as it all blends in Matsuhisa. Forget about the scene, this is all about great food. What is so unique about this restaurant is the loyal service. Most of the waiters I have known for years. They do not leave and switch restaurants as often as it is common in other dining establishments. They are all very friendly and if you are a regular they treat you like their beloved neighbor.

Contact&opening hours: (+1) 310 659 9639; Mon-Fri for lunch 11:45-2:15; Mon-Sun for dinner 5:45-10:15

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