Faking it

Melbourne on new year’s day is a weird place. All sorts of shops, restaurants and bars are were closed. The entire Royal Arcade was closed for some reason. It’s like Melbourne still wants to believe it’s a quiet country town. Despite the crappy weather, there was plenty of foot traffic in the CBD, so a lot of the places that had the sense to stay open seemed to be doing pretty well. Fortunately the prices are high enough at Passionflower that it wasn’t overcrowded, and we could easily get a table to enjoy some very overpriced, sugar-laden dessert. The Melbourne one (Bourke St) has friendlier staff, better service and gets the nicer presentation of the food than the one at Capitol Square in Sydney — the staff there act like customers are an unwanted nuisance.

Anyway, with my parents in town, my wife and I decided to take advantage of the possibility of free babysitting and go out for dinner. There were limited options, but most of the restaurants in the Crown complex at Southbank were open, so we ended up at Nobu. It’s immediately obvious that the floor staff don’t really speak Japanese. It makes no sense to (poorly) attempt to say “irasshaimase” as you show someone to their table; you should have said that as they approached the door, or the moment they walked in. (Something like “kochira e” works when showing a person to their table.) All the staff were doing this with everyone, which kept my wife giggling. I guess they could claim to provide free entertainment. You might get even more entertainment if you get a seat in the upper bar/lounge area with a view of the riverbank. For example we saw some really weird cougar thing going on. There was this woman of east Asian appearance with a far younger guy who looked like he was part European, part Asian. She had the bag, camera and everything, and was acting like she knew she was in charge. The also seemed to have a bit of trouble walking straight. All in all, they gave off a pretty weird vibe. I really hope it was a cougar thing, because if he was a family member, they were acting downright creepy.

Anyway, the main attraction of Nobu is supposed to be food and drink. Nobu exclusively serves Hokusetsu sake, and it was pretty clear that the waiters don’t know much about sake besides the scripted lines they’ve been given to describe each choice. We got a carafe of the Onigoroshi served cold. It was fairly dry, with a bit of a harsh, unrefined flavour. You could clearly taste the rice that went into it. Probably not for everyone, but we enjoyed it. We then proceeded to order some cocktails and eat our way through the interesting-looking parts of the tapas menu. The Godzilla is a great, refreshing cocktail that you could probably keep ordering all night. The champagne mojito lacked balance: the rum hit you, but didn’t really meld well with the lime and mint, and it was like the Veuve Clicquot didn’t know what it was doing in the mix.

The disappointment of the night was definitely the jalapeño fritters with dry miso. Seriously, don’t bother with this: the batter was oily, and there wasn’t anything interesting about it. On the other hand the baked scallops with creamy wasabi shiso were absolutely superb! The bold flavours and perfect texture left both of us wanting more. The biggest surprise came with the salmon anti-cucho and teriyaki skewers. We expected teriyaki flavour, but the sauce was almost an Indian curry. It wasn’t bad, just very surprising. The black cod with miso was definitely good, as was the wagyu tartar crispy rice butter lettuce (well apart from the live aphid on the flower garnish). The Blackmore wagyu intercostal was a bit of a let-down. It didn’t taste bad, but the texture wasn’t great. I don’t think the chef got this right.

The total damage was a bit over $200, which is pretty reasonable for this kind of restaurant. Not everything on the menu is excellent, and the staff are clearly faking it, but it still makes for a good night out. Interestingly, we noticed that despite even bars like E55 being closed KT Mart (a Korean supermarket/homewares/alcohol shop) was still open as we passed it on the tram home. I guess Koreans realise the importance of being able to get stuff like bokbunja or maehwasu on any day of the year (if only I could get it as easily in Bondi Junction).

This entry was posted on Saturday, 11 January, 2014 at 10:57 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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