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Nabura Roppongi


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Nabura Roppongi

FourSeasons | | Nov 29, 2007 12:39 AM

After reading Steamer's opening remark at his thread "Eat and Report Back", I decided to write to recommend one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo : Nabura Roppongi. I have visited there 5-6 times in the last 2-3 years and have never been disappointed. It is not listed in Michelin and I don't even think it is well known, but I enjoyed it as much as my experience in Jiro (3 star) or Ryugin (2 star).

Nabura specialized on high end seasonal seafood, not really your typical sushi joint, but it has varieties of seafood air flown from different parts of Japan, and mostly cooked in traditional way, retaining the freshness of the ingredients. I noticed most of the threads here focus on typical traditional Japanese food such as sushi/sashimi, kaiseki, ramen that are well known outside of Japan. But I personally feel that Japan also offers the best seafood because of the way they know how to handle the freshness of the ingredients that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.

Nabura is in the basement of the building; once you entered, it is like a sushi bar or high end izakaya with 15-20 seatings and another 3 tatmi rooms. But instead of sashimi/sushi varieties, they have different seafood displayed. There is no English menu; only 2 persons spoke English there: one is the young lady chef and the other a part time waitress. Of all my visits, we are always the only foreigners there. The crowd are mostly corporates spenders, wealthy middle aged couples or being in Roppongi, the sugar daddy-club hostess type of clients.

I recommend sitting on the bar counter rather than the tatami room for 2 reasons: first, the lady chef on the counter speaks English so there is someone that you can ask for recommendation, and second, you get to see what your neighbors eat so if that looks really good, you can just point at it and order the same dish.

My visits happened to be on Oct-March period, which is actually the best time of the year for seasonal sea food. My recommendation below is based on this winter period. I went with a group of 3-4 persons, and price is about 10-15k per person but it also depends on what you order on the ala carte menu.

We usually started with ankimo (monkfish) liver with ponzu sauce. I believe this is only available from Nov-Feb period. I had this dish plenty of time in Singapore but what I had here is simply unmatched in terms of the freshness and flavor. I would say the same thing for all the dishes below: it just taste more delicious here than outside of Japan due to the freshness and cooking skill. Next is shirako 白子 (which means fish sperms). Yes, i understand for those of you who have never heard of it, the idea of eating fish sperms is disgusting but this is actually a winter delicacy. It is white color (of course, what other color could it be?), very soft feel (the other dish that I have come across with similar touch is cow's brain, probably another disgusting food to many readers). It can be cooked with ponzu sauce, or bbq with slight crispy outside but retain the softness inside, or fried tempura style, or on a clear soup. I personally prefer ponzu sauce but if I already had ankimo ponzu style as the first dish, I probably will want the BBQ style.

I will also select 1 or 2 oysters as appetizer as well as the Japan oysters are simply delicious. Another good appetizer would be sharkfin chawamushi ふかひれ餡掛けの茶碗蒸し. Chawamushi is a cup of egg custard that is mixed with vegetables, mushroom and dashi. On this dish, it adds sharkfins on top of the dish. It is simply the best chawamushi I ever had.

We usually also ordered 毛がに crab from Hokkaido, accompanied with a small dipping in-house sauce (I have no idea what it is). The roe is almost as good as hairy crab (seasonal crab from Shanghai) and it has plenty of crab meat so fresh it almost melt in my mouth. On the last trip, the boss's wife recommended me the live squid that they pulled out from their tank, sliced sashimi style and accompanied with 3 sauces, which reminds me of the way the sashimi were served in Ryugin. There was one lemon sauce, one salt and I can't remember the last one. Each sauce complements the other one.

Next come the fish. If you are willing to splurge, then order 特大きんき煮付け. It is kinki cooked in nitsuke sauce. I believe kinki fish is only available in winter time period too and it is quite expensive. If you are not willing to pay that type of price, then a substitue would be 赤むつ  nakamutsu, which is almost as good but half the price of kinki. I don't know what nitsuke sauce is in English; there is probably no English word as I only eat it in Japanese food. The whole fish is presented on the plate but it is a very small fish and I can actually finish it myself alone.

Another favorite dish there is あわび肝味噌焼き 雲丹をのせて; it is abalone with miso paste and add uni on top of it. I don't think that is the correct translation (I don't read Japanese) but that is basically what I ate based on that order. Another amazing dish. To finish off, we also ordered an ankimo nabe (hotpot soup). It is the same ankimo fish that I described above. I think this is my wife's favorite soup of all time. However, I do have to warn that we tried it once in March and it simply does not taste as well as in December and I assume that is due to the tail end of this seasonal food, which may not provide the same freshness as in December.

There are still a few other dishes I tried but they are not as outstanding as the ones that i have described above. The problem is after finishing this part, I feel so hungry now that I feel like flying to Tokyo again to eat rather than to describe the food. But next trip is probably 6 months away. Just have to face reality.