In a city where 5 star hotels and luxury restaurants are two a penny, I needed to find somewhere special to take my wife (also my editor and motivational guru) for our first wedding anniversary. Thankfully her brief experiment with vegetarianism was over but sadly for me Burger King wasn’t going to cut the mustard. Both of us love food but I wouldn’t call us foodies. We love low key restaurants with great food where the food fills the plate rather than decorates it but we aren’t always averse to a fine dining experience.
We decided to go to Nobu, the Four Seasons hotel’s flagship restaurant. I won’t give you a potted history of the concept or the cuisine (a Japanese/Peruvian fusion) as I’m sure you can find it explained far better on their website.
Arriving separately at the front of the hotel, I was told I could take a shuttle car to the restaurant, but deciding it was only a 5 minute walk I attempted the scenic route. Taking a wrong turn through a disused car park by the marina and coming to a dead end, it took me a little longer but then I meandered through what looked like a landing strip en route to the mothership itself. I hadn’t seen this many neon lights and LEDs since watching Tron Legacy.
Wandering inside into this dimly lit 3 floored star cruiser, a lady was standing by the elevator transfixed by the illuminated backdrop of the building. At this point, I did fear my impending alien abduction until she pressed the elevator button for me and realized she actually worked here.
When I reached the front desk and uttered a few words, I was immediately recognized by the maître de as the guy who had put in several difficult requests for paper decorations and something edible from paper for our special day (I’d only discovered a 1 year anniversary is a paper anniversary days before). I was shown to the lounge area to see my beautiful wife perusing the drinks menu, while the barman was making our first cocktail of the evening, the Japanese Mojito (70QR)
(Absolut Vodka, Junmai Sake, Crushed Lemongrass & Shiso, Finished with Fresh Apple Juice & Ginger Ale Served Over Crushed Ice)
Mrs Dohabitation’s verdict: So good you couldn’t even taste the alcohol. Unlike any mojito I’ve ever tried and very unique. Made with care and attention to detail. The ice was blended to perfection and didn’t dilute the drink itself. Tasted like a detox drink with added alcohol because of all the fresh ingredients, especially the lemongrass which worked really well.
To accompany our drinks we sampled some Spicy Edamame, lathered in truffle oil, garlic and pepper. (25QR)
Mrs Dohabitation’s verdict: A lovely blend of sweet and savoury notes. Extremely moreish. We demolished this plate fairly quickly. If you’re looking for a Nobu experience that won’t break the bank then try this and another dish from the tapas menu with a cocktail to start your evening.
Our table was booked for 7 but we drank our cocktails at a leisurely pace and only got to our table for 7:30. The restaurant says on the website that there is a 2 hour turnaround for tables but as it was a Sunday night it was relatively quiet.
Once we were ready to be seated, one of the hostesses showed us to our table. She offered to hold my drink for me and I wasn’t quite sure how to take that. Was this part of the 5 star service? Why didn’t she offer to do that for my wife? Did it look like I was a clumsy oaf and I was going to spill it?
I felt perfectly comfortable holding the drink but didn’t want to appear rude so there was an uncomfortable pause before I held firm to my drink grasping philosophy and declined her offer. With this battle of wills complete, we saw our table, complete with roses, candles and some cute little origami paper cranes.
Our authentic Japanese hostess soon arrived on the scene to greet us with a well-rehearsed smile. Sensing our newbie trepidation, she guided us through this menu of biblical proportions. With both of us not having eaten since late morning, our stomachs were growling and we both zoned out a little as she gave us a keynote lecture on all the dishes on the menu.
Thankfully, we picked up that it would be a family-style food sharing concept and had a few dishes recommended to me beforehand and a few more dishes that our waitress vouched for. Although there is an option for a taster menu that comes in at reasonable value, we both wanted the freedom to choose dishes of our choice at least this time round.
Having ordered some water, I noticed the holder it came in would have been quite useful for a stationery box for my classroom but I resisted the temptation to sneak off with it. I jokingly asked if this was iceberg water as I’d heard there was a brand of Japanese water made from Antarctic icebergs and if I was going to find it anywhere then it would be here. Instead I was told this water is from Fiji and it was sourced from underground springs that had never seen the light of day until we opened the bottle. It.tasted.exactly.the.same.as.any.other.water.
We started off with the Wagyu Beef Spicy Ponzu (110QR)
Mrs Dohabitation’s verdict: Tiny mouthfuls of melt in your mouth tender beef surrounded by a crispy taco shell. Amazing little bites – it was funny to see my husband (who usually eats his food as Usain Bolt runs 100m) trying to savour every moment of the teeny tiny taco by trying to eat it in several bites, but it all collapsed all over the plate!! The price doesn’t seem fair for how much you’re getting with this dish, but the quality itself was second to none.
Soon, the plates were piling up as the Rock Shrimp Tempura with Butter Ponzo arrives (135 QR):
Mrs Dohabitation’s verdict: Having just experienced the very modest portions of the wagyu beef tacos, I had mentally prepared myself that this was going to be one of those really fancy meals where everything is served in a huge plate, but you actually get to eat something the size of a button. But, to my surprise, they brought out a bowlful of crispy delights – tempura prawns showered in finely chopped chives. Crispy on the outside with a delectable creamy dipping sauce – this dish was a winner.
Then the piece de la resistance: the Black Cod Yuzo Miso (235QR)
Mrs Dohabitation’s verdict: A big slab of tender, flaky cod falling away from itself at the touch of a chopstick sitting on top of a banana leaf. So good, I felt like we were two cats fighting over the catch of the day. It came with a stem of fresh ginger to bite on in between mouthfuls and miso sauce doted around the plate. Absolutely delicious – I would go back for this dish alone.
Alongside the Crispy Fried Rice with Spicy Yellowtail (120 QR)
Mrs Dohabitation’s verdict: A generous portion of perfectly crispy deep fried rice cube on lollipop sticks. There was a soy type sauce and another small dip with it (can’t remember exactly what it was) but both were far too salty for our tastes. Probably the least favourite of the dishes we tried.
Of course, there was still room for dessert. The Mrs ordered the Chocolate bento box (a Chocolate fondant with green tea ice cream (65QR)
Mrs Dohabitation’s verdict: I am a massive chocaholic but this was chocolate overkill. This was one of the richest chocolate dishes I’d ever tasted, so much so that it was too sickly to eat more than a few mouthfuls. The ice cream was very lightly flavoured but didn’t do enough to offset the really strong taste of the fondant. Dessert is my favourite part of any meal, so I was a bit disappointed by this.
I ordered the cheesecake with the Raspberry Wasabi sorbet (65QR). They had wished us a happy anniversary (although slightly misspelled).
The sorbet was particularly good, even though from the angle of the picture it didn’t look particularly appetising, but I didn’t get a hint of wasabi at all. I enjoyed this dish immensely but I am easily pleased when it comes to desserts and I didn’t feel it was any better than a cheesecake from a mid-range generic restaurant anywhere on the planet. Perhaps desserts aren’t the signature dishes of Japanese or Peruvian cuisine or perhaps we both ordered the wrong choices.
We both had a great evening and bearing in mind feedback from the opening month of Nobu, they seem to have ironed out a lot of their customer service issues. The staff were attentive without being intrusive and knew exactly when to come over to us. Food was on our table quickly and there were no issues at all. A nice touch was when diners were shown to their table, a call and response was made from the waiter/waitress to the kitchen staff as a form of greeting in Japanese (hard to explain in words but you’ll know what I mean when you get there).
The dining experience was enjoyable although the décor was a bit meh to me. A kind of generic, inoffensive 21st century lounge with the accompanying Buddha Bar lounge house compilation CD in the background. I was also disappointed that there was no hi-tech gadgetry in the toilets as I was half expecting some kind of digital display monitoring my every move. Never mind.
I must thank them for accommodating my requests for the paper origami and am grateful they were able to do this for us.Overall, a great experience, some of the food was absolutely sublime, some was a little underwhelming but maybe if we hadn’t zoned out when hearing the menu choices we might have chosen something a little tastier instead.Definitely worth a visit even if it’s just for a few snacks at the bar and a drink overlooking the gorgeous view of the Marina at night.