Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna is one memorable Nobu dish.
Black cod with miso is Chef Nobu's signature dish.
Nobu Dallas is a staple spot for sushi in the city. (Courtesy)
Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert De Niro are both all in on Nobu.
Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño
White Fish Sashimi with Dry Miso
Black Cod Miso
Nobu's sushi bar.
Nobu is one of several top Dallas restaurants offering DFW Restaurant Week reservations.
I was intrigued by an invitation to come learn sushi rolling and then taste some of the new and classic old favorites at Nobu. That seemed more than fun, it seemed like a great way to have a fabulous dinner at the famed restaurant launched by Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, known by many as Chef Nobu.
Born in Japan, Matsuhisa found himself in Los Angeles in the 1970s. After some stints at other well-known Japanese restaurants, he opened his namesake Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills in 1987. That excessive decade known for avant-garde tastes was the perfect backdrop as his restaurant soon became a hotspot for the Hollywood set. Legendary actor Robert De Niro became a regular and the two decided to together open an East Coast location named Nobu in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood in 1993.
Over the past two-plus decades, Nobu has become a worldwide phenomenon (two million diners each year) that includes more than 30 restaurants in exotic locales including São Paulo, Kuala Lumpur and Budapest. They have also now branched out further into hospitality with Nobu Hotels.
Chef Nobu keeps a watchful eye on all of his properties and spends 10 months of the year visiting various outposts. On those trips, he works with chefs on creating innovative dishes from new ingredients. The Dallas Nobu opened in 2005, which means that next year, in 2020, the restaurant will celebrate 15 years of love in the city.
Upon arrival at Nobu, my dining companion and I were given monogrammed chef’s aprons and assigned a station at the bar facing executive sushi chef Mitsuhiro Eguchi. First off, sushi rolls and sashimi looks minimalist chic.
One would automatically think that minimal means easy to create. However, have you ever tried to recreate a Colorfield painting a la Mark Rothko or Clyfford Still? Not so easy. Sushi is exactly the same. It is quite difficult making something that looks so effortlessly easy in its presentation.
Every two of us in the class had a sushi chef (perhaps they are called the junior or apprentice version) behind us making sure we were doing a good job. That was definitely not me. I realized early on that I wouldn’t need to update my LinkedIn profile to now list sushi master as a skill and I’m definitely not waiting on a call from Nobu to join their team.
I guess my major failing was in the handling and rolling of the rice. Sushi grade rice is actually quite sticky, which I didn’t realize at first so I didn’t moisten my hands enough in the delicate water bowl. I continually had pieces stuck to my hand. As I rolled back and forth, they did not become delicate little oval balls to then place my fish pieces on top of.
Nobu’s Food Stands Up
After our sushi rolling 101 course, we were escorted to the back private dining room. My creations were an absolute horror to look at. However, when you have that exceptionally high quality of fish to work with they were still incredibly delicious. We were presented with the Nobu signature cocktail menu and the Yuzu Kumquat Cooler looked intriguing. Made from Stoli citrus vodka, fresh kumquat, mint, orange, yuzu, monk fruit, lemonade and soda, it was the perfect start to the meal ahead.
Our first appetizer had a Texas State Fair quality to it in its presentation and taste (granted, for a much higher-end taste palette). It was their crispy rice and tuna.
The first part of that equation was cubed rice pieces on skewers. You could then use the tiny spoon (resembling caviar serving pieces) to spread some of the ground tuna on top. Delicious. Is this what one might call culinary comfort food?
On to the saten yori which had such delicate flavors from the following fishes: yellowtail jalapeno, salmon and whitefish dry miso. My favorite starter, however, had to be the Wagyu and foie gras dumplings. The layering of meat and spices wrapped in an elegant dumpling was so memorable that I will likely order again and again on future visits to Nobu.
Our main course is Nobu’s legendary signature dish — black cod with miso. This type of fish can often be found at high-end restaurants given its rich, buttery flavor and exquisite, silky texture. However, it’s been my experience that it is either under or over-spiced. This was not the case at Nobu where the team behind the kitchen doors knows how to allow the natural essence of the fish speak for itself.
OK, one would never think to save room for dessert at an Asian restaurant. Believe me, I agree, having eaten at so many during my lifetime (I am Chinese). However, make sure that you order Nobu’s mini miso cappuccino. We got the version in little cups, but they also come in a small bowl as well.
The layering of chocolate seemed just the right amount of excess to end a thoroughly indulgent evening.
First off, if you ever get the opportunity to take a sushi rolling class at a Nobu outpost, don’t pass up the chance. Apparently that experience can often be found at some high-end charity auctions. Be prepared to bid high since this is truly a unique experience. But no matter what, make sure you still get in a visit early in 2020 to celebrate Nobu’s 15th anniversary in Dallas.
Perhaps make it a real fun date night and book a suite at the Hotel Crescent Court as well for a truly memorable evening. It’s just a matter of steps from the sushi bar at Nobu to the elevator to the rooms.
Nobu Dallas, 400 Crescent Court, 214.252.7000, noburestaurants.com