by Matthew Sterne
on October 8, 2010
The Horny Grazer review of Nobu at the One&Only hotel in Cape Town
“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him and to let him know that you trust him.” Booker T. Washington
If you haven’t been to Nobu in the One&Only, then you’re seriously missing out. All morning I’ve been berating myself for not trying it sooner. The food is quite simply exquisite!
Nobu is a global phenomenon that started as a business partnership in 1994 between chef Nobu Matsuhisa and his partners actor Robert De Niro, Meir Teper, Drew Nieporent and Richie Notar. The original restaurant opened in New York where Nobu drew on his classical training at sushi bars in Tokyo and his life abroad in Peru to create sophisticated and unique flavours.
With Table Mountain framed by the towering glass walls of the Vista bar and a Saketini in hand (Nobu has a selection of very interesting cocktails, the Sakatini contains a heady mix of vodka, sake, plum wine, cointreau and cranberry juice), I had to concede that life as the Horny Grazer wasn’t all that bad. Suitably relaxed, I made my way down the fan-like staircase into the Nobu dining room. Textured, translucent origami light fittings bring the vast, dark and seductive interior to life. Nobu is a double volume leviathan that works best when it’s brimful of jolly sushi aficionados. And there is absolutely no reason why, like its global brethren, Nobu Cape Town shouldn’t be full every night.
The house red is Meerlust Merlot and the house white is Ken Forrester Sauvignon Blanc. Now that’s classy. And immediately sets the tone for the evening.
If, like me, you like to be in control of your order, then you probably find it rather difficult to place your trust in the waiter, or for that matter, to share your food – but you should. Trust me. The menu is a minefield – you’ll be far better off telling the waiters what sort of things you like and letting them take care of the rest. The service is super-slick (we’re talking little back hand flicks between waiters here) and uber-knowledgeable, so rest assured you’re in safe hands.
Do this and you’ll receive a feast fit for a Samurai. And if you’re worried about price, don’t be shy to ask! Rather ask up front than spend the whole evening fretting about the apoplexy inducing bill coming your way.
There are however a few dishes which, if they tickle your fancy, I suggest you ask your waiter to include…
The yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno dressed with yuzu soy was fantastic – the flavours are so delicate and moreish, while the new style salmon sashimi seared with olive oil and sesame oil and topped with sesame seeds is the best salmon sashimi around.
The tuna sashimi salad dressed with matsuhisa dressing was next up. This is apparently a soy and onion based dressing, but I suspect there may be a few more secret ingredients – it was sensational – I was virtually licking the dressing off the plate much to the chagrin of my boss.
On to the more substantial dishes. You have to try the black cod den miso. The Nobu signature dish and one of the most delicious pieces of fish I have ever tasted – it’s marinated in a sweet miso sauce, then grilled and caramelized giving it a delicate crispness and unique sweetness. Yum!
Another favourite is the pork belly with spicy miso, roasted in the wood oven- seriously delicious.
Nobu is always experimenting with new dishes – one such was the pan-seared scallops with foie gras and sesame sauce. Not an entirely convincing combination. Scallops work well with crispy pancetta as a contrasting texture, but the seared foie gras is just a bit too soft to pull it off.
Bursting at the seams, we were presented with the most immaculate pudding platter that included chocolate fondant with green tea ice cream and a heavenly chocolate tart with peanut butter crumble, vanilla ice cream and warm chocolate sauce. If you’re looking for something a little less rich, the passion fruit brulee with coconut sorbet was sublime.
As if that wasn’t quite enough, you’ll then have to try the exclusive sake collection served in enticing bamboo vials. We tried the Junmai Daiginjo which is a semi-dry sake with a cherry blossom finish. All the sake is exclusively brewed for Nobu by a single producer in Japan – Hokusetsu. As if I needed to develop a taste for another alcohol!
As I stumbled out to the port-cochere feeling very pleased indeed with life, I wondered to myself why Nobu hasn’t been full every night. I think it’s because we’re just a little bit cautious in Cape Town – wary of the big, bold newcomer. We’re reluctant to try out a menu that would confuse even the Pokémon and loathe to believe that a restaurant in a hotel can be anything other than a rip-off.
Well no more! Get thee to Nobu. It’s going to rock your world.
One & Only Hotel, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
Tel: 021 431 5111