2 Mar 2011

Romantic Dinner on Valentine's Day

Crown Casino 
6 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006, 

Ph: (03) 9292 7879
Web: Nobu

Open Hours
Monday  ~ Thursday
12pm ~ 2:30pm
6pm ~ 10:30pm

Friday ~ Saday
12pm ~ 3pm, 
6pm ~ 11pm; 

6pm ~ 10:30pm

By seeing the executive chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa many times on TV showing professional cooking skills and delicious fusion modern Japanese dishes,  the well known international chain restaurant based in Manhattan, NY becomes as famous as it's co-owner Robert De Nir. I've been looking forward to dine in Nobu for quite a while. Finally hubby made a reservation on the 14th February, a perfect place for a special occasion.

The smiling staff welcomed us at the door and led us to the front desk. Booked for two at 6:00pm for an early dinner. Then we were requested to choose from the special Valentine's set dinner or order from the menu. Without showing us anything, neither the set menu nor the normal menu, this question seemed pop out from no where and we both didn't know what to do at first. A bit strange, they even wouldn't let us decided after we take a seat? Very unexpected as this have never happened before. However, we quickly decided on the set dinner (without knowing the price) and fingers crossed we have made a right decision.

The contemporary interior design of the restaurant is incredible modern. It's hard to tell from the decor it's actually a Japanese restaurant, except for the Sake wine bottles display on the long bar shelves. It's informal and relaxing, large open air with dark wooden furniture and beautiful caramel chocolate brown leather seats, high ceiling and yellow lighting. As cool as a modern, classic American pub.

"Irasshaimase" (welcome)! wait staffs yelled it loud and welcoming customers everytime people comes into the restaurant. There's a long narrow bar upstairs for customer having a drink or waiting for their table get ready. Downstairs, there is a sushi bar and more formal tables and seats. We''ve got a table upstairs near the window and overlooking the Yarra River. Beautiful views, I started to like this place.

I'd like to try the degustation menu in a new restaurant for fine dining. Normally they included their signature dish, fresh local produces in season and chefs new invented dish in the menu. Here was what we had that night at Nobu:

St Valentine's Day 2011 special menu $286/pair
Includes a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rose NV or soft drink
Fresh Oyster Trio Served with Nobu Salsa, Tiradito and Ponzu
Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno
Sashimi salad Matsuhisa Dressing
Black Cod Miso
Wagyu Rib Eye to Share Served with Red Pepper Miso, Ponzuy and Anti Cucho
King Crab with Rose Water Amazu Ponzu
Chef's selection of cut rolls and Nigiri Sushi
Dessert Chocolate Bento

After more than 30 minutes sitting there chatting, taking photos and looking outside the pedestrian. A female staff  finally came to my husband and asked if we've had our first course yet. I felt a bit hilarious and wanted to laugh. At the same time I felt sorry for the poor girl as this was not just happened to us but also the table next to us as well. She seemed so confused and rushed downstairs, I guess that's where the kitchen located . With four or five wait staffs serving us that night made me a bit confused not just her. I don't see this a good thing, as sometimes the wait staffs didn't know what they were doing, especially when someone was taking the order, specialist the menu and another person was serving the food. I could see the table next to us experienced some difficulties during their stay. Also the whole night not even once the wait staff topped up our empty glasses. I don't mind doing it myself, but that was inattentive service for a fine dining restaurant.

Okay, that's enough complain.  Let's start with the food. First we had the fresh oyster trio served with Nobu salsa, tiradito and ponzu. No big wow factor but it was fresh and tasty. Three oysters beautifully presented on crushed ice and decorated with little flowers and a pink plum? It was very pretty and well balanced in flavour. Very refreshing to have the sweet and sour plum after eaten the oysters.Wonderful!

Then we had the yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno. Sensational! The taste and the look both spectacular! Fresh raw fish with green chili and coriander, sweet and tender, very flavoursome and once again gorgeously presented on plate. Each thin slices of fish piece by piece placed on a fabulous white flower dish. It was like a water colour Japanese painting. Definitely the highlight of the night. I like the cleanness, simplicity and light flavour in Japanese food. The seasoning never too strong or take over the freshness of the ingredients. It was an impressive and exciting dish.

Next was the sashimi salad with Matsuhisa dressing. A lovely small dish and subtle flavours. The raw fish served with cherry tomato, lettuce and vermicelli. The tuna was fresh and melted in my mouth. This was an ordinary dish you probably can find in most of the Japanese restaurants. The most important thing is the quality of the fish and they've got that. The only thing I wish was there would be a bigger portion as I finished it too quickly and almost forgot how it tasted like in two mouthful.

Finally we've got to try the Nobu widely talk about signature dish:  black cod with miso! This was not the first time we've had it but I was still excited to try it again!  The cod was marinated in miso and roasted before serving. The dish was superb and the white fish tasted so good with the miso paste sauce. It was warm and soft and had this fine flake texture and the salty soy greatly deepen the flavour. The ginger roots was interesting, oriental and refreshing. This dish is certainly worth trying.

It was St. Valentine's and there were many love birds walked pass the window from where we were sitting. People with roses, presents, holding hands, cuddle together and kissing each other just in front of me. Very sweet and romantic.

After we had a few dishes of fish, we were still hungry. Luckily we were only half way there and the next dish we had was the wagyu rib eye to share served with red pepper miso, ponzuy and anti cucho sauces. The beef was cook outside while the inside was still raw and pink. It was nice but nothing spectacular. The meat was a bit dry and didn't melted as it should be for a high grade wagyu marbling beef. Sadly not enough to share.

King crab with rose water in amazu ponzu sauce was pretty amazing except for the size. This was DH's favourite dish and he loves the presentation of  the three small cube king crab meat mixed with chili, coriander, red onion and rose in a pretty blue glass bowl. The crab meat was deep fried, tasted tender and has this rosy flavoring and smell. Thumbs up!

Chef's selection of cut rolls and nigiri sushi included salmon, tuna, kingfish, scallop and etc. The sushi was ordinary. However, the dessert chocolate bento was a happy ending. Such delicious chocolate fondant with a ball of vanilla ice cream and a black sesame cracker underneath it. The melted chocolate tasted so lovely, it was just right and not too sweet. This is not a traditional Japanese dessert but very tasty. I love it. My second favourite of the night.

There are many great restaurants in Crown Casino including a few I've tried and some new ones I'd like to try. We were looking forward to the Nobu experience before the night and we have to be honest to ourselves that it didn't meet our high expectations for the price we paid. The food was nice but nothing inspiring or memorable. For an outstanding fine dining, I believe that there must be something special to make a customer return or recommend to others. After paying more than $300 for two without alcohol, hubby and I walked out with our unfilled stomachs. Not acceptable for small eaters like us and we just wanted to go somewhere else and enjoyed our night. The service was ordinary, a bit hit and miss comparing to most high standard fine restaurants. I remembered there was one wait staff made a loud noise (sound of dishes) while cleaning up the table, that was unprofessional. She looked unemotional the whole night and it made me uncomfortable. We had to ask for small empty plates when sharing the yellowtail sashimi dish. Very annoying as we were sitting there expected for the dishes to place on our table one for each of us, but after five minutes of wait I decided to ask them as they've totally forgot about it. When my hubby was making the reservation, they took his credit card details but they never made any confirmation call before or on the date. Again, that was only small things, but small things added up a serious problem. I don't know if we will go back again, but this is not a place we would proudly recommend to our friends. Their service didn't meet their standard, at least not the night we were there.

Now we can't wait for our trip to Sydney in a few weeks time and go to Tetsuya's for a Saturday lunch.
Yes, finally we've got a reservation there.

Nobu on Urbanspoon
Cuisine: Japanese
Food: Average
Service: Average
Atmopshere: Good
Value: $$$$
Recommend: Average

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