Robert De Niro’s favorite chef and business partner Nobu has 28 restaurants across the world, a number one rating in the Zagat Guide and a Michelin star for his London restaurant. But how does Nobu Tokyo compare to the numerous other luxury restaurants in the city?
The huge imposing doors at the entrance of the Toranomon restaurant hide a counter-bar and intimate yet surprisingly open dining room, as well as a sushi counter. The restaurant is definitely Japanese, though Nobu blends the flavors and spice of Latin America with the unstuffy attitude of California and space was fairly loud for Tokyo — which was a positive sign as diners were clearly enjoying themselves.
The exotic menu is what Nobu is all about, and the sashimi appetizers were very unusual; yellow tail was served “Peruvian style,” in yuzu soy sauce with coriander and jalapeno pepper (¥2,500). Raw octopus came with citrus and chili (¥2,200) and scallops with dry miso and olive oil, which was very flavorful and didn’t need any extra dipping sauce.
We tried the tuna sashimi salad next (¥2,800), a seasonal fresh salad with the freshest cuts of tuna that you can watch the chefs slice from the fish in the open kitchen. The fish was seared with hot olive oil and drizzled with the house’s own sesame-based “Matsuhisa” sauce (named Nobu’s after family name).
Nobu’s food is ‘new style’ Japanese cuisine. The all-star chef cut his teeth working at the Matsuei-zushi restaurant in Shinjuku before embarking on a tour of South America, where he worked in kitchens in Peru and Argentina. Naturally ingredients and tastes differ hugely there, so Nobu was forced to create a new style of cooking that fused Japanese and Latin flavors, a signature Nobu style that has become a hit across the world.
The signature dish of black cod in miso comes highly recommended and reportedly is De Niro’s favorite. The skin was crispy and caramelized, and the fish wonderfully soft (¥3,000).
The following sushi course included Nobu’s particular take on soft shell crab. Restaurant staff said a regular customer had brought in fresh, soft shell crab and asked Nobu to prepare it. The chef deep fried the crab and then rolled it — still hot — with avocado and daikon into sushi style rolls. The warm, crunchy rolls became popular with customers and were permanently added to the menu (¥1,900).
The Peruvian beef kebabs in spicy sauce were a surprise. The dish is based on the traditional street food often served outside soccer stadiums and is cooked on skewers like yakitori. The beef was of the finest quality, grilled perfectly and still rare and juicy in the center.
The finale was a “chocolate bento box,” featuring chocolate soufflé with vanilla pod ice cream, fresh fruit and raspberry sauce, all served in a traditional Japanese lunch box (¥1,600).
Nobu Tokyo is a world class restaurant and although I didn’t see any Hollywood stars during my evening, I couldn’t help but glance around the room to see if Robert might be in town.
Lunch, Weekdays (11:30am–3:00pm)
Dinner, Mon–Sat (6pm–11:30pm)
Sun and Holidays (6pm-11pm)
1F Toranomon Tower Office
4-1-28 Toranomon, Minato-ku
Photos courtesy of Nobu Tokyo.