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« Sunday night with 'Pauly D,' plus a couple of recipes | Main | "Hop to" this hot deal for 'Lunch Belle' readers! »
Thursday
Sep012011

Hot food & hot guys: dinner at Nobu 57

  • Restaurant  Nobu 57
  • Cuisine  Japanese, sushi
  • Location  40 W. 57th St. Street (between 5th & 6th Avenues), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-757-3000
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  spacious, bilevel, dramatic, modern, sleek
  • Attire  smart and/or business casual
  • Ideal for  small and large groups, 1x1, bar scene, small plates, private events
  • Price  expensive

"Cooked" is key at Nobu 57

If you consider yourself to be a sushi connoisseur or a scout for the freshest piece of raw fish in town, then you may be highly disappointed by the offerings at Nobu 57.  However, if a dramatic, bi-level interior space coupled with an exhilarating, albeit expensive, cocktail menu and some solid "cooked" dishes are more your forte, then Nobu 57 has you covered.  

I must have walked past Nobu at least three times on my way to meet Teddi for dinner.  "There's no signage, whatsoever," I giggled, as I recounted how many times I passed the restaurant.  "It's kind of just hidden in the bottom corner of this office building!" 

When we entered the space, I couldn't help but notice just how packed the bar already was...with smokin' hot men, and very few women (mental note to self).  After announcing my arrival to the hostess, I was taken aback when she informed me that the restaurant "wasn't open yet" and that "we could wait at the bar for a couple of minutes."  Not open yet?  Granted, it was early.  5:50pm, to be exact.  But still, this was odd.  Because I swear that I saw more than one table munching on plates of shrimp tempura.  "Thanks," I replied, "we'll do that."

Nobu 57's downstairs barWhile Teddi sipped on water, I ordered an "up" margarita.  Hey, it was a long day! 

Luckily, we didn't have to wait long for Nobu to "open."  After about three gulps in to my cocktail, Teddi and I were led upstairs to our two-top table, overlooking Nobu's namesake 57th Street.

Nobu 57's sushi barNobu 57's upstairs dining roomSince I had only been to Nobu once - in Las Vegas circa 2005 - it was only fitting that Teddi, a Nobu veteran, sit in the "menu" driver's seat.  We decided to share two "hot dishes," and then order a couple of our own items.  

Crispy Rice Cakes with Spicy Tuna Tartare

The dish pictured, below, was on the "special" menu; Teddi insisted that we order it, and for very good reason.  Crispy, tempura-battered cubes of sushi rice were individually speared with bamboo toothpicks and served "Belgian frite style," in an upright paper cone.  A small bowl of spicy tuna tartare accompanied.

Teddi demonstrated how to properly eat this appetizer without looking like a total Neanderthal, and I quickly followed suit by grabbing a speared rice cube and dunking it in to the tuna.  "Now, put the whole thing in your mouth," she exclaimed.  

I've had renditions of this dish at other restaurants around town, but I found this particular version to stand out, due mostly in part to the fact that the extra-crispy rice "cubes," speared by toothpicks, encouraged interaction and conversation amongst the table. 

Equal parts crispy, creamy, crunchy, and savory, the two of us nearly fought for the very last morsel.

King Crab Tempura Amazu Ponzu

OK, so I wouldn't be able to tell you, neither off the record nor without the help of Wikipedia, what "Amazu Ponzu" is, but "King Crab Tempura?"  Pshhh.  Those are three words that I know and love.  And they're even better when they're all combined!

Perched atop a shallow "amazu ponzu" broth (pickled ginger/citrus) were ample nuggets of fresh king crab, each delicately encrusted by a golden tempura batter.  Julienned red onions, cilantro, and jalapeno "dimes" hovered overhead.

"Special" grilled scallops, order of two pieces (priced per piece)

It was at this point in the meal when the "plate sharing" subsided, and our solo orders began (to arrive).  The first dish that I was served was a shallow bowl containing two plump, halved scallops, perched upright and etched with perfect grill markings.  A pool of chilled melon soup prevented the mollusks from tipping over, as they were topped with a melange of heirloom cherry tomatoes, pickled red onions, purple and green microgreens, and chips of sea salt. 

Sashimi: hamachi, king crab

The last of my solo courses to arrive was a sashimi duo.  I ordered a piece each of hamachi, which is yellowtail/amberjack, and king crab. 

If there's one thing that I took away from my food handling/safety/sanitation courses during college, it was this: fresh fish should always be firm to the touch, not mushy and/or jiggly/wiggly.  Well, Nobu's hamachi was precisely that.  It had the texture of a raw chicken breast, with enough flexibility to be used to slap the shit out of someone's face.  And leave a deadly mark.  The "king crab" had the consistency of polenta - grainy, mushy, course - and the "fishy" aftertaste of canned tuna.  Disastrous. 

~

Desserts  The dessert menu looked more "WD50" than what I would have expected from "Nobu 57."  Think: gorgonzola gelato - frozen chocolate powder - kabocha - aerated sponge cakes - etc.  Teddi and I decided to choose the menu's two most non-threatening sweet items and split them down the middle.

Milk Chocolate Yuzu Cake

Easy on the eyes, no doubt.  However, I found the sour, tangy yuzu to be too much of a flavor contrast to the creamy, sweet milk chocolate, caramel mousse, praline crunch, and hazelnut gelato.

Banana Soy Toban Yaki

It was this dessert that really hit the spot: warm caramelized bananas and roasted pecans were topped with the perfect scoop of vanilla gelato, which melted seamlessly over the sweet, ample mound of fruit and nuts.

To conclude

Aside from its outrageous prices and awful raw fish, I really enjoyed my experience at Nobu 57.  However, this leaves me wondering: is that enough for a restaurant that prides itself on becoming famous for its sushi/raw fish?  I don't know.  But I will say that the dishes Teddi recommended for us were fantastic, as was my solo order of scallops.  Plus, you can't beat the restaurant's sexy and expansive bi-level space or its lively, handsome bar scene.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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