Nobu 57

04. July 2007 Japanese, Midtown 0

40 West 57th Street between Fifth and Sixth
about $650 for omakase for six people, 60% comped, with drinks, with tip
♥ ♥ ♥

You know when people say it’s all about who you know? I realized what that truly meant last week when I was invited to join a friend’s family for a birthday dinner at Nobu 57. The birthday boy works in the omakase kitchen, so it was just appropriate that he took his family to work to celebrate. The Dr. and I were lucky enough to be included. We joined the celebration a few minutes late. The night was young and already, the restaurant was loud and buzzing with celebrities. Blistered peppers and grilled fava beans were on the table when we arrived. I rarely see fresh fava bean pods in the market, so I was thrilled to see them as appetizers. The kitchen continued to send plate after plate to our table for the next three hours. The celebrant was all too familiar with the dishes because they make at least 500 of the omakase orders a night from the time the restaurant opens for lunch until it closes around midnight. His friends in the back surprised him a few times with new specials.

They started us with the yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño peppers and the fluke in ponzu sauce. Both were so light I was led to believe that the rest of the night was going to be manageable. But then the presentation began–the kitchen staff trying to impress one of their own. The tuna with spicy cucumbers was served in a martini glass and topped with microgreens. The lobster and shiitake mushroom salad, a popular Nobu dish, became one of my favorites. The lobster was so succulent. The mushrooms only highlighted its decadence. A tofu and mussel salad was more mellow, served in trendy foam made of miso. Although impressive, it was probably the least memorable.

The rock shrimps were served with a spicy cream sauce. I could have done without the creaminess, but apparently, Scarlett Johansson loves them the way they were. The soft-shell crabs were lightly deep-fried and cooked to perfection. I loved them even more because they were served with small chunks of watermelon. Cubed fish was served next on lettuce leaves meant to be picked up with our hands. They were topped with fried phyllo dough that looked like dried noodles. We could have ended our meal there, but the food kept coming. The arctic char was delicately sweet, so grilled cauliflowers and puréed cilantro sauce were the perfect complements. At this point, I was unable to move, but I had to force myself to keep eating because the beautiful lamb chops came in. These lamb chops made up for all the bad lamb I’ve ever had in my life. Redemption is oh-so-sweet. I could have eaten a few more if only my stomach didn’t beg for me to stop. I had no choice but watch as the rest of the table picked up the sushi pieces in front of me which included a salmon lookalike ocean trout and seawater eel.

Thank goodness the drinks kept pouring. The beer and the wine flowed freely. Two carafes of cold sochu, one pomegranate, another lycheee flavored, disappeared immediately. We were too paralyzed to eat the desserts, but we happily picked on three kinds including the Nobu beer ice cream served with a white peach and jasmine soup and the whiskey milk ice cream with coffee crumble. One by one, the kitchen staff came out to greet the birthday boy. They brought with them a warm chocolate cake with green tea ice cream and a plate of fresh cantaloupe with a flickering birthday candle.

I’m not as young as the celebrant, but I had no reason to complain as we achingly walked out of the restaurant to digest. Happy birthday indeed.

Related post/s:
Japanese food minus the noise and the celebrities
Asian food without the $600 tab