OK - so you may be asking, why go to Nobu in Paris? Especially since we live in NY. The answer involves three motives: 1. To see if there are any local fish which might inspire different preparations from those in NY, 2. To get a break from heavier food particularly on the eve of departure to Alsace, and 3. Because it's there. Nobu Paris opened about 3-4 weeks ago in the 8th. We got reservations with about 4 days notice but the glamour set has already descended. Everybody there was beautiful and on show. The restaurant itself is on two levels, bar downstairs, dining above. Decor is quite chic, blonde wood, muted tones, modern design. The only exception is the sushi bar which is backed with aquamarine colored tile and brightly lit. This was a jarring and distracting aspect to an otherwise peaceful setting. Now, on to the food.
We bit the bullet and both went for the Omakase. The routine was standard Nobu with questions regarding allergies and dislikes. We responded no to both but added that we'd been to Nobu New York and wanted to try different dishes. Without missing a beat, our waiter responded that we'd have the "other" or "second visit" Omakase. This sounded good to us. With all of the following courses we had 2 bamboos of a very smooth Daiginjo sake.
1. Tuna tartare with Osetra caviar served with a berry type fruit I still can't identify (looked sort of like a raspberry but with a pit within - tasted sweet tart and....different.) Very tasty tuna, very fresh but not very unusual.
2. Turbot tiradito with fried jalapeno, shaved red onion and some sort of marinated root vegetable. Again, not too unusual but surpassingly fresh and balanced. A well-conceived dish.
3. Marinated salmon with fried oysters, red bell pepper and more red onion. Absolutely delicious mix of flavors and textures. The marinated salmon had a lovely fragrance. A winner.
4. Turbot tempura with fried shiso and mashed Japanese sweet potato. The tempura was fresh and greaseless. This was the comfort food section of the meal. Nothing to go crazy for but a worthwhile respite amidst the parade of bigger flavors.
5. Chutoro tataki with daikon and fried slices of the tiniest eggplants I've ever seen. This was described for us as Nobu's signature dish by the waiter (I thought that honor went to either the miso black cod or the new style sashimi.) Anyway the obvious attraction here was the chutoro - perhaps the best pieces of tuna I've tasted. Very silky, fatty and deeply flavored - the closest thing to foie gras we had tasted in Paris. Which brings us to the next course.
6. Roasted magret with sweet/sour cherry sauce, paired sauteed foie gras served with a tart grapefruit/apple sauce. Foie gras at Nobu? Well this is Paris after all - what do you expect? There was nothing here to distinguish this from other well prepared, fresh versions of this pairing elsewhere in Paris. OK, the sauces were uncommon and worked well with the duck/fg. It was just a little strange to have those tastes after all that great fish. It probably is the Paris equivalent to the Kobe beef that shows up in NY Omakase.
7. The standard small sushi selection - one tuna, one salmon, one unusual sort of mackeral, two pieces yellowtail roll, and (horrors) two pieces California roll. Nothing exceptional here, just straightforward sushi.
8. Fruit tempura - mango, papaya, banana (the banana worked the best) served with lavender flavored ice cream and one of those unidentifiable berries again. In all this was a nice, relatively light way to end a fine Nobu meal.
It was a wonderful experience and is recommended. The restaurant is still young and needs to smooth out it's performance, especially the pacing of dishes. Sometimes plates appeared on the tables before we had finished the previous one. The staff however was pleasant and energetic., By the way, I think we actually came away with a free dish (the salmon/oyster plate) which had been ordered as an appetizer at another table. The table next to ours appeared to be having the "first visit" Omakase and they received lots of salmon (maybe they requested it, I don't know.)
Apparently, the place is generating lots of buzz already. When we spoke about it with someone in Strasbourg later he said "I hear that's the best Japanese restaurant in all of Europe." I can't vouch for that but it was a fine experience.
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