It’s fair to say that the late 1990s are on trend right now. Bucket hats, slip dresses and Adidas slides are all the range on the young people of Haji Lane. Westlife are headlining at this year’s Formula 1 in Singapore. Last week, a friend’s son asked me if I’d heard of Pulp Fiction. So, it seems fitting that the restaurant of decade, Nobu, opened its doors at the Four Seasons Hotel earlier this month.
The brainchild of Japanese celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Hollywood actor Robert De Niro, Nobu was launched in New York in 1994, then in London in 1997. “If you’re ever lucky enough to have anything be successful … make sure you don’t short change yourself,” De Niro is reported to have said. He stuck to his word. Today there are over 50 Nobu restaurants around the world stretching from Malibu to Ibiza. Nobu Singapore is its 53rd outpost.
Black Cod Miso
Back in the day, Nobu was an iconic part of 90s culture, luring in the glitterati of the time with sultry lighting, sleek decor, a possible sighting of a Spice Girl, and the restaurant’s high-end union of Japanese and Peruvian fare. Their signature dish, Black Cod Miso, was as famous as the destination.
Hooray then that Hideki Maeda, the former Head Chef at Nobu London, helms the Singapore edition. As a protégé of Matsuhisa, he has spent over two decades honing his culinary skills under Matsuhisa’s watchful eye and executes the menu to perfection. We’re excited to see classics such as the Black Cod Miso and Rock Shrimp Tempura available, alongside new innovative creations (with the promise of more to come).
We start with a selection of cold plates and warm appetisers. Standouts include thin slices of Yellowtail Jalapeno comprising pale fish with bright slices of jalapeno on tangy beds of yuzu and soy sauce. The Sashimi Salad offers delicate tuna sashimi with fresh greens tossed in a tart Matsuhisa sauce. The Nobu Tuna Tacos are little wonton shells packed with tuna and lobster, a light ponzu marinade, and a small dollop of Japanese mayo on top.
Beef Toban Yaki arrives topped with fresh asparagus and is tender and succulent, accompanied by a sauce of sake, soy and yuzu. Pan seared wagyu beef and foie gras dumplings were served with karashi miso ponzu sauce. The Anticucho Rib-Eye Steak paired with a hearty, spicy Peruvian-style sauce is one of the few ‘heavier’ dishes on the menu and came a close second for us to the infamous Black Cod Miso. This showstopper arrives glistening and tantalising, gently falling into soy-glazed bites at the touch of a fork. It tasted sweet and melt-in-your-mouth buttery, and needed almost no effort to chew.
Bed of sushi
No Nobu experience is complete without an extensive bed of sushi, and the Singapore menu is no exception. Chutoro Nigiri, Kampachi Nigiri with Dry Miso and Bonito, Kinmedai with Shiso Leaf, and California Maki were all very well prepared in terms of the cuts and temperature of the fish.
The desserts were just as well executed. We end with Nobu Cheesecake with Raspberry Wasabi Sorbet, Japanese Strawberry Cake Vanilla Whipped Cream with Strawberry Gel, and Chocolate Fondant Lava Cake with Matcha Ice Cream – a chocolate soufflé which was warm, solid, packed with subtle sweetness from the dark chocolate, and made for a winning mouthful with the green tea ice-cream.
As we pause for air, we comment on how despite Nobu occupying the floorspace of what used to be two outdoor tennis courts, the restaurant is alive with energy and buzzy chatter. Twenty-five years may have passed, but Nobu certainly hasn’t lost its sparkle. And was that a Spice Girl we spotted in the bathroom …?
VERDICT: While the prices here are undoubtedly high, you could argue that the food is better than ever – a result of years of fine tuning. Perhaps all the proof you need that Nobu continues to be a stellar eatery is to look at their reservations – we’ve heard there’s a waitlist for the next two months.