“Nobu the world's most recognised Japanese restaurant, known for its innovative “New Style” Japanese cuisine, launched it's (sic) Australian location in 2007 at the Crown Entertainment Complex in Melbourne.
“With the original in New York, the Nobu brand is now an empire that spans the globe, offering signature dishes such as yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, tiraditio Nobu-style, and black cod with miso.
“Over looking the southern banks of the Yarra River, Nobu Melbourne offers a stunning view inside and out. River stones suspended in mid air, cherry blossom adorned ceilings, burnished woods, and rich hues create an ambiance of elegance and refinement.”
Those three paragraphs are how Nobu sums up itself on its website, although as the world’s most recognised Japanese restaurant, you would reckon that someone would proof read the copy (they charge enough for dinner, so it’s not that the place can’t afford someone to check things) and at least got it right. It may just be a rogue apostrophe (in the first paragraph), but it is an indication that attention to detail has fallen down. I wonder whether someone wouldn’t get slapped over the knuckles if they had forgotten a minor ingredient in a signature dish. Small point, I know, but it’s all about details. When you’re blowing your own trumpet, be in tune. Now I’d like a say on the night I had at Nobu.
THE One and I ate there last weekend. We both love good food and wine, and given that Nobu has, in my circle of friends, never had a bad word said about it, it seemed the ideal destination for some quality time and company, quality food, quality wine in quality surroundings … mind, that doesn’t include the giant money box outside the confines of Nobu.
After a glass of chardy at my place (it was Eden Road’s The Seedling, a cool-climate chardonnay from Tumbarumba and not too bad), we snaffled a cab. We arrived at Nobu a tad early, but that was easily fixed by a glass of chardy at the bar until we were collected and shown to our table. I’d also got a call from my son, Joel, who works at the casino (he deals poker … I say this because I can’t spell croupier). It had been a while since I have caught up with him and there was also the fact that he and THE One had never met.
Almost to the bottom of the chardy and we were duly collected and whisked away to our table for two downstairs. The seating at the table was A), a chair on one side and B), a couch-type arrangement against the wall. I took the chair, which gave THE One a view of all and sundry going on in the restaurant. The problem was that THE One isn’t quite as tall as me and when she sank into the comfy couch, it was just too low for her, so we swapped. Mind you, her then view … of a wall … was hardly a stunning one in the way the Nobu describes such things. A wine list and menu delivery later and we were on our way to a memorable night. Or were we?
Now the tables are bloody well close together … a tad too close for our liking … which turned out to be less than ideal. The couple on one side of us was having a spat … quite serious inasmuch as it was liberally laced with “you fucking this” and “you fucking that”. They were, how do I say this nicely, pissed. Well at least that’s how they looked when they left for pastures greener or wherever pissed, fighting people go to after dinner. Not that it was easy to hear any of the regular insults or rants … or even each other across the table … for Nobu with all its “elegant, refined ambiance” is one noisy place. I’ve been in quieter public bars during 10 o’clock closing … OK, I’ve been in public bars that are almost as noisy as Nobu. My god it’s loud.
After consultation (with each other … yeah, we yelled politely across the table) we ordered some water and a bottle of Curlewis chardonnay (it was about 60 bucks). The water arrived swiftly and was a surprise given that it was a commercially labelled bottle sitting in a metal sleeve (Nobu, it seems, recycles (from where, I thought, after all it doesn’t sell the stuff by the bottle), an admirable thing although it does detract from the “refined” descriptor that the restaurant uses regarding itself.
The wine took far, far too long to make an appearance on the table … about 10-12 minutes from memory. Not good enough, not even close.
Joel sat with us for a while and he and THE One behaved like old friends. They got along just so … that made me smile. Them too for that matter. Pretty soon he was on his way and so was our dinner. We’d left it to the staff to provide us with shared dishes of their choice. We had wanted the nine-course version but the waitress said that it wasn’t on for the night. Why then was it on the menu? Attention to detail? Oh well.
The food came at regular intervals and was obviously from great suppliers and well plated … the quality of the ingredients and presentation was beyond reproach but there was nothing that was going to make either of us say “We have to come back for this.” Even one of the signature dishes, the black cod with miso, which several of my friends have raved about and would leave home for, was, well, nice enough, but leave home for it? Nah, it just wasn’t that inspirational.
Five (from memory) courses, a bottle of chardy plus two glasses at the bar and it was 320-odd bucks (plus a tip) and almost a need for an Aspro (yeah, it’s that noisy … at about the same level as in the Atrium Bar in the casino where we had a couple of drinks before fleeing into the night).
Nobu? Would we go back? No. Not in a hurry anyway. The food was very good (read not great), the atmosphere was daunting because of the noise, which took the experience well out of the realms of fine dining, the service was, at times, slow but always with a smile … and value for money? We have had more enjoyable, less expensive Japanese food at Eis (mentioned on this site several times) in Albert Park. There are Eis dishes that we still talk about over and over and that we plan to have again.
There was more chardonnay (Best’s at Great Western … it’s called VIC and it’s good), some music and a fair bit of laughter involved in a nightcap to end a memorable if somewhat noisy and a less-refined dinner than we’d hoped for.
Refinement was best left for Sunday anyway … and it involved opera.
It came early, refinement that is, not Sunday, and it involved a latish lunch … a dozen and a half fresh oysters, some decent blue cheese, some smoked salmon and a fresh baguette … and a drop of lime-infused olive oil. Oh, and a bottle of French bubbles … Grande Cuvee 1531 de Amery, a traditional drop imported by a company on the Mornington Peninsula … and what a pleasant drop it is. There are hints of fruit (so lunch WAS balanced) and a fine, constant supply of bubbles. It tasted good too.
There’s a bloke at the South Melbourne Market who shucks oysters to order … I often have six on my way through while I’m food shopping … and they were a great way to start the day.
Sunday arvo was a kick back and not do a lot sort of afternoon before later opening a wine that THE One had managed to source … MOMO sauvignon blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand. We had had it at dinner at Eis a couple of weeks before before and we both loved it. Sure, like all the sauv blancs from that neck of the woods, it has a big fruity nose but this one, unlike those taste-bud-stripping others, is soft in the mouth … an absolute treat.
A shower, shave and whatever was the order of the day before heading to Lina’s Wine Bar for dinner and a night at the opera.
Fortunately I’d booked a table for two earlier in the week because the place was packed. The crew there did well to hold said table … it was being eyed off by all the standing punters and, of course, we were fashionably late.
No matter. The place was filled with the most magnificent sounds, courtesy of three wonderful voices.
Tenor Ben Logan, who manages Lina’s, bass baritone Matthew Thomas and soprano Nicole Wallace were individually, together, any which way, simply magnificent.
There seemed to be the ideal marriage in terms of the trained voices and the place’s acoustics …
Nicole Wallace has performed with the Schools’ Company with Opera Australia and her voice just blew us away. Twice my eyes filled with tears as she finished off a piece … wow.
Matthew Thomas, a young artist with Opera Victoria, has a voice that’s just so rich.
And Ben Logan, he’s a knockout too. I spend a bit of time at the bar and have gotten to know him quite well. He’s a decent bloke and what a voice.
He has worked variously with Opera Victoria, Opera Australia and recently spent three weeks in China doing gigs with the Victorian Philharmonic Orchestra, during which time he played about a dozen concerts.
The three singers on the night did solos, duets, whatever, and each time got a standing ovation.
Somehow during the music, we managed to each enjoy a decent piece of beef (with café de Paris butter) and some zucchini, squash and roasted hazelnuts on the side, all washed down with the house white, which, according to THE One, was just a bit too acidic, something I hadn’t really noticed before. But she was right on the money.
All too soon the singing came to an end … but not the entertainment.
Chris Howlett, a cellist at The Australian National Academy of Music, laid about half and hour of Bach on us … he too was a knockout
What a great night, fine music, food, friends and wine … does it get any better?
Can’t wait for the next night at the opera.
ME IN A NUTSHELL
- G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.