My first experience with Nobu was back in 2007 at London, Mayfair, my virgin experience with a Michelin star restaurant that left me thinking, what was so great about the brand name that has built such a huge reputation from serving fusion japanese cuisine and the Michelin rating.
True, that night we had items that were unique like the foie gras gyoza and the signature black cod but there were normal items that were you know, not mind blowing, especially with such a branding. It is like entering a BMW showroom to pick up your car, only to realise gosh why did i spend RM 300,000 on a car that can move me from A to B when i can pick up a car 1/6 the price and it does the same thing. Yes, we can have a debate that will stretch till the cows come home about the differences but you get the gist.
Anyways if you haven't known, Nobu has expanded their empire to Australia and has a restaurant in the Crown Casino, Melbourne. With a friend down in Australia for a business trip with a decent allowance, we decided to pop in there. He didn't mind because he had always loved Nobu back in London and i, well, free good food, why not?
We went in on a Saturday afternoon and i think first impression is that the top floor seating area does not cut it at all for a fine dining restaurant. The seats are ridiculously small and not exactly comfortable and the tables are tiny. I hear that there is a proper dining area downstairs but i assume that it is only open during dinner.
A 2 course set lunch is AUD 45 and with dessert is AUD 57. Alternatively you can pick one of their 3-4 bento sets that comes with an entree for around AUD 45 - 60. Do note that there are quite a few dishes that you can't order from the entree and main list when you pick your 2 course set lunch.
Being in a "high class" place, i had originally no intention of taking pictures but oh well, bad habits die hard, so i snapped a few with my camera phone to share, so don't complain about the quality.
For starters, you have to got try the cerviches or the tataki, which is basically Nobu's style of serving their sashimi. Served with a tiny piece of jalapeno, yuzu and ginger dressing, it is quite enjoyable. Alternatively, you can always have it natural way with wasabi and soya sauce.
Rock Shrimp Tempura is another classic which is tempura battered shelled baby shrimp with either a ponzu or spicy mayo dressing. Unlike the one in London where the sauce is served separate, the ponzu dressing is poured onto it before serving, meaning eat it quick before it gets soggy.
Many a times, we eat soft shell crab that tastes more like deep fried flour but this was the real deal, with bites of crab flavour and you can really sink your teeth into meat as well.
With Nobu, their signature dishes are usually leaned to Western if anything and are also not available for ordering if you are going for their lunch set. So thinking of black cod or wagyu beef? Got to order it ala carte. Trying to get my value for the set lunch, the chirashi sushi at AUD 35 on the ala carte menu got the thumbs up for me. It is really a no brainer dish if you have fresh fish but simple things like having ikura aka salmon roe with it gives it a different dimension and the tamago that they serve is almost chiffon-like, very interesting.
If you want the plainer version, my friend went for the sashimi lunch.
Another problem with service is that the staff don't seem to know what they are doing at times. Apparently when my friend ordered the sashimi lunch, he described it as sashimi lunch bento box, not knowingly that there are actually separate items on the menu i.e. sashimi lunch and bento box. The waitress didn't confirm the order and put it that he wanted two items. When another waiter came to serve the wrong item, he hadn't had a clue what he should do when we said, this was not what we ordered. Not something i expect from Nobu.
The Chocolate Bento Box is a simple molten chocolate cake and green tea ice cream which i just love, the oozing melted chocolate and the cold ice cream, with the black sesame cracker underneath.
I suppose people will always criticise harder than they should because of expectations especially when the restaurant is supposedly one of the best; the lunch experience falls short of that, especially when the meal for two is AUD140. Maybe eating here for dinner might be different but be prepared for a bigger bill.
Address and contact details:
6 Whiteman St
Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9292 7879
Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9292 7879
(In the compound of Crown Casino)
Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. I would be cruel to say 3 stars because after all some of the dishes do taste genuinely good but like i said, when you are told its a BMW, you naturally expect a BMW, not a Honda (especially the price tag).