Restaurant reviews Nobu Melbourne

It feels a little like dining in a nightclub

Part of a global chain of Japanese restaurants, there was quite the stir when Nobu opened some years ago on the riverbank at Melbourne’s Crown complex. It’s one of those restaurants you think you should go to at some point, but something else always seems to come along. However, when an email lobbed in Greedy Girl’s inbox, alerting her to a special four course dinner at $70 a head (plus matching wines for an extra $20), she jumped at it.

Nobu has always had a reputation in Australia for being a bit pricey. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband wended their way down the river bank on a cool, clear night and found themselves in the basement of Crown, in a huge room. Chefs working the sushi bar at one end gave a somewhat confused-sounding traditional greeting as the host led us down the stairs and to our table. The room itself is dominated by timber tones, mood lighting and pumping music. It’s a little like eating in a nightclub and, as the evening more on, just as crowded and noisy.

Initially there was some confusion; we were given standard a la carte menus. Greedy Girl had to explain we had booked in for the special. The list of four dishes was produced and while gluttonous husband also went for the matching wines, these were not listed on the menu. We needed to glean that information from our server who, despite a lovely smile and bubbly nature, was a bit hard to understand. Greedy Girl, on perusing the wine list, discovered the names of the four matching wines there. All good. We settled in and watched, amazed, as the room steadily filled. Tuesday night in wintry Melbourne is obviously hot for dining.

Having just come back from a week in Japan, choosing this cuisine for our first night out again on home soil was possibly not the greatest idea. We’d heard many mixed reviews about Nobu so had no real expectations of the food. We were in for a very pleasant surprise.

It was amazing.

First up was a Hiramasa yellowtail tartare with a few dots of Beluga caviar on top, sitting in a pool of wasabi-laced soy. It was spectacular. The fish was light, flavourful, not too strong. The dots of caviar gave an extra little pop of saltiness and the wasabi/soy mix was delightful. If Greedy Girl wanted to quibble, she could say the sauce became a little too dominant. We happily made short work of this plate. The little red berry you can see at the side of the dish is yamamomo, a Japanese mountain peach and we were recommended to eat that last, as a palate cleanser. We weren’t expecting it to have such a big stone inside it but it was a perfect postscript. The wine pairing with this dish was also Japanese – a 2012 Morita Koshu, from the Yamanashi prefecture, about two hour’s drive from Tokyo. A first taste before the dish was served was a little underwhelming but it went perfectly with the flavours.

Restaurant reviews Nobu Melbourne

Hiramasa yellowtail tartare

Next was the dish featured at the top of this post, New Zealand scampi with inaniwa noodle (traditionally from the Akita prefecture of Japan, way up in the north of the main island), dressed with a spicy shiso ponzu. Initially we were a little alarmed to be presented with another cold dish, especially given the evening was already quite cold enough, but this was absolutely scrumptious. Greedy Girl managed to navigate her way around sprigs of coriander (which she doesn’t enjoy) but the flavours, the textures and the subtle warmth coming from the spice were delectable. Having been dubbed ‘Noodle Queen’ by her friends in Noto during this last Japanese visit, when she needed longer arms to be able to get the noodles from one bowl into the sauce (until the technique was explained), Greedy Girl resolutely attacked these udon noodles without a slip twixt bowl and lip. Totally yummy. The dish was served with a 2014 Trout Valley reserve pinot gris from Nelson, also in New Zealand. Greedy Girl enjoyed the added oomph and slight sweetness. Another excellent pairing.

We then moved to meat, specifically Rangers Valley Black Angus rump (from Glen Innes in northern New South Wales), served with a shiso chimichurri and aji amarillo salsa. It was paired with a 2o12 by SCP Touriga Nacional, from South Australia’s Langhorne Creek. This is, apparently, a Portuguese grape variety that’s used to make port and it was soft, round and delicious. The meat was beautifully pink in the middle but a little overcooked on the thinner ends. The texture was reasonably coarse, but that’s not unusual with rump steak, but it wasn’t at all tough. The chimichurri was flavour-packed with garlic and herbs and the salsa gave another tasty counterpoint. It was more of a South American dish than anything – chimichurri is tradtionally served up with meat in Argentine cooking while the salsa is said to hail from Peru. Fusion lives!

Restaurant reviews Nobu Melbourne

Black Angus rump

Finally it was a green tea wafer with ‘goma’ ice-cream. Greedy Girl is the first to admit this description did not exactly turn her on. She loves green tea but has been underwhelmed by its use in various desserts. Not here. OMG, this was good.

Two green tea waffles (cut into heart shapes) were slightly warm and very tasty but they paled besides the goma ice cream. This was an utter revelation for Greedy Girl who usually passes on ice cream. Goma is Japanese black sesame ice cream. It was absolutely incredible, a creamy but light confection that once Greedy Girl dipped her spoon in to try, she was obsessed with licking up every last smear. Underneath was a crisp black sesame toffee which gave an additional texture. This was served with a Japanese plum dessert wine, Nobu’s own stash, called Hokusetsu Umeshu. It arrived at the table with an ice cube in the glass which again was a bit of a shock to the system, but it went extremely well with the dish.

Restaurant reviews Nobu Melbourne

Green tea waffles with goma ice-cream

Greedy Girl was completely impressed with the quality of the food and the suitability of the pairing – it was possibly one of the best pairings she and gluttonous husband have ever experienced. Nobu’s sommelier clearly knows their stuff and has a complete understanding of the food.

This was a first-rate experience; many reviewers have complained about the service at Nobu but ours was reasonably prompt, if a bit difficult to understand. The e-mail special offer was one of those rare treats. Greedy Girl will be watching her inbox intently to take advantage of any other offers.

The Foodie World star rating


Crown, Melbourne

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