Nobu is like a ballet: precise, refined and choreographed. The effortless perfection which appears in front of you is the result of a lot of hard work behind the scenes. Like that cartoon of the swan gliding easily across the pond, but underneath he is paddling like hell.
When we walked into the restaurant I was so busy concentrating on not falling over (I had dragged out my high heels for the occasion) that when the room erupted into a cheerful 'irasshaimase' [irra-shy-mass-eye] I just keep walking and watching my feet. I didn't realise until later they were talking to us, welcoming us to the restaurant.
Every guest who walks into the Nobu is similarly greeted: one of the wait staff calls out the initial greeting, then all the staff echo the call. It was extraordinary, and I wish I hadn't been so rude as to ignore the greeting.
Just like the famous theatres of the world, the space at Nobu only acts to enhance the beauty of the food. Decorated in shades of brown, there is detail in everything, and nothing left to chance. The Perth Nobu (there are now twenty four in the global empire) is designed in the style of a Japanese water garden, perfect for our love of the beach, and the fact that the restaurant overlooks the Crown casino's recently upgraded pools.
A silvery school of fish wend their way across a wall
Two extraordinary overhead chandeliers, made of thousands of hand-blown glass balls in shades of brown and caramel and honey, hang from the recessed ceiling looking like dripping caviar. What appears to be a school of silver fish swimming across one wall are in fact glazed ceramic. Large rusted reeds fan the entrance and hide in corners.
We were told that all the food is designed to share, and they recommended we choose two or three cold dishes, three hot dishes, a sushi dish and a dessert. The menu looked extraordinary, but in situations such as this, I much prefer someone far more qualified than I to make such an important decision.
So we elected to have the eight course degustation menu. Of course they don't call it degustation, it is an Omakase Menu (oh-ma-kah-say), which translates to "I'll leave it to you". A brilliant concept, which I wish we could try at home.
At $150 per person this is well and truly special occasion food (I think being married to me for 13 years qualifies as a special occasion) but considering the dishes generally range between $16-$26 for the cold dishes, $19-$85 for the hot dishes, sushi starts at $3 per piece and desserts are $15, it ended up being a good deal (at least relative to the al a carte menu, perhaps not relative to anything else).
The staff seemed to be very perceptive as to how quickly we wanted each course brought out. The only time I felt like I was waiting was for the dessert. I also suspect that it probably took ten times as long to make each dish as it took for me to devour it.
In a nice touch, when each dish as bought to the table, we were given a suggestion as to the best way to eat it, such as which bits you should eat (and which bits to leave), when to mix it up, when to eat the garnish, and when to dig all the way to the bottom.
I suspect the Omakase menu changes every now and then, but these are the dishes I had.
Mixed sashimi salad with a very strong and salty miso dressing, salad leaves wrapped up as sushi rolls. If anyone figures out how to eat a sushi roll filled only with lettuce without it collapsing in an ungainly mess on the table, please let me know.
I had to ask one of the waitresses to come and clean the table, and so they returned after every course thereafter on the assumption I was a total grot.
One of the Nobu signature dishes: Black cod with miso, wrapped in a leaf, crunchy lotus root chip, followed by a pickled ginger spear palate cleanser. This was very sweet and the fish flaked just by looking at it, making it quite difficult to eat with chopsticks.
I ended up chasing it around the plate: I wasn't going to waste a morsel.
Fillet steak tataki seared in sake on a hot plate with mushrooms, asparagus and citrus sauce and a bowl of miso soup. The plate was so hot, that if you don't like your meat and veg on the 'rare' side, just let them sizzle on the plate for a bit.
I began 'glowing' a bit at this point. Facing due west the restaurant is at the mercy of the setting Perth sun. There are sheer blinds cutting some of the glare, but if you arrive before sunset, you may need to wear sunglasses.
At 7pm, as the sun sank below the ultra-exclusive three bedroom condominiums, the blinds opened automatically. A lone swimmer was floundering around in the pool. 'She probably thought she could go swimming with no one watching', my husband remarked dryly. Indeed, the entire restaurant had swivelled their heads to stare out at the revealed view. She very quickly got out and left.
Finally, about 90 minutes after we started our dessert arrived. Curiously named, the Miso Cappuccino was four layers served in a small mug: a miso cappucino brulee (I couldn't taste the miso, thankfully), a crunchy biscuit layer, vanilla bean icecream, topped with a light whisky foam layer. It didn't seem particularly Japanese, but it was tasty.
For probably the first time in our 13 year marriage I was the designated driver, so I ordered a small glass of champagne ($12) and sipped in a very restrained manner for the first five courses.
When the waitress came to collect the empty glass, she said something to me and I smiled and nodded, assuming she was asking if I had finished. I couldn't actually hear her over the music which was surprisingly loud where we sat. Turns out I accidentally ordered another drink, which I didn't mind so much, but it meant that my husband had to drive instead.
So was our dinner worth the $336 price tag? (The bottled water was $12.90). It was very beautiful food, and it is true that you eat with your eyes. The service was exceptional, the room very sophisticated. Some of the dishes were exquisite and some were just good.
The dishes that were standouts were the ones that not only looked amazing but had different or unexpected elements.
Perhaps if we had ordered off the menu, we could have chosen more of these exceptional 'fusion' dishes. I think the secret to a place like Nobu is to order things you would normally never consider, because that is where the brilliance lies.
FYI, the black cod with miso and the miso cappuccino are two that my uncle was instrumental in creating when he was head chef at Nobu London and Melbourne (the black cod is amazing!). Look out for the Wabi restaurants that he's now opening in England and Europe- they're like Nobu before it sold out :P I think our bill came to about a thousand pounds at Wabi, so $150 is definitely a good deal!