On a big, shiny white plate were four smaller plates holding ceviches and appetizers. A marker indicated where to start—the mamakari nanban-zuke, a Japanese dish of marinated cooked fish. The herring-like mamakari was lightly fried and gently doused with vinegar—delectable. The new-style grouper was drizzled with sesame oil, pleasantly aromatic, while the chu toro or medium fatty tuna with wasabi salsa provided the kick. The lobster quinoa ceviche was zesty and refreshing. These four were like the four seasons on a plate, allowing the tongue to experience different little waves of flavors, all not complicated, and exemplified the deliciousness of simplicity and freshness, recreated with twists that do not overwhelm but rather accent the main flavors.
These characterized the other dishes personally overseen by esteemed Japanese chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, popular called Nobu. The founder and owner of the eponymously named resturant flew to helm the kitchen of its Manila branch, the flagship restaurant of Nobu Hotel in City of Dreams Manila, the 6.2-hectare integrated casino resort along Manila Bay, for a special dinner and to meet his admirers last March 18.
The recently opened Nobu Manila is currently the hottest dining spot in Metro Manila, the 32nd in the chain, which has 36 restaurants around the world, and the first in Southeast Asia. Nobu promises the same quality and offerings in all outlets.
The fine-dining restaurant, which sports contemporary Japanese-inspired design, appears dark like a theater with pools of light illuminating the tables, nooks, a sushi bar, two teppanyaki tables and a chef’s table. It can seat 335 people and it has two private dining rooms. Outside, the cabanas are nearly surrounded by water and seem to float on it.
Nobu Manila serves modern Japanese cuisine imbued with influences from Nobu’s travels particularly in North America and South America, where the chef has stayed. The signature dishes include the toro tartar with caviar, yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, whitefish tiradito style, salmon new style, creamy and spicy rock shrimp, squid pasta, black cod miso, beef tobanyaki and the bento box dessert.
The multi-course, special omakase or set menu, priced at P7,000, has been so popular that the restaurant had to create three sessions—lunch, dinner and late dinner at 10 p.m. Ours started with the mixed sashimi salad with red and green jalapeño dressing using ocean trout and grouper, placed on top of grilled water convolvulus or kangkong, with greens wrapped in thinly sliced daikon. The crunchiness of the fresh vegetables counterbalanced the delicate fish meats.
The aforementioned four-way tasting of appetizers was followed by a beautiful selection of sushi, which included tuna, shrimp and tamago so fluffy it tasted like mamon or chiffon cake. The sushi came lightly seasoned that a dipping soy sauce was not needed. A dollop of wasabi was placed on the side for those wanting some kick.
The black cod with jalapeño miso was cooked to perfection, the flakes of the fish tasting like clouds and a pickled ginger stalk providing a delightful sharpness of flavor and color. But the wagyu and eringi with red onion-shiso salsa got everybody excited. The beef was so delicate it melted on the tongue. This was contrasted by the chewy and well-seasoned eringi or king trumpet mushroom. The salsa tickled the tongue.
To wash down the flavors, the lightly spicy and sour heart of palm “noodle soup” was offered and, to top the dinner, the simply named shaved ice was served. It was a Japanese version of the Filipino halo-halo, which was lightly sweetened with a gingery syrup. At the bottom were little surprises such as little green tea mochi.
During the dinner, Nobu was amiable, posing for selfies and signing copies of his books, including Nobu: The Cookbook, Nobu Now, and Nobu’s Vegetarian Cookbook. It is no wonder why actor Robert De Niro and Hollywood producer Meir Teper championed this chef and joined forces to bring his innovative cuisine to the world.
For more information, call City of Dreams Manila’s hotline at +63 (2) 800-8080, or the restaurant’s direct line + 63 (2) 691-2882.
|The black cod with jalapeño miso|
|The mamakari nanban-zuke; new-style grouper; chu toro with wasabi salsa; and lobster quinoa ceviche|
|The heart of palm “noodle soup”|
|The mixed sashimi salad with red and green jalapeño dressing|
|A selection of sushi|
|The wagyu and eringi with red onion-shiso salsa|
|Nobu Manila can seat about 300 people.|
|Nobu Manila has outdoor cabanas near the hotel’s pooldeck that seem to float on water|
|Japanese chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa|