Last night I went to Nobu restaurant at the Shore Club Hotel, Miami, for the first time in years.
When I lived in Knightsbridge in London I went to Nobu and it’s competitor, Zuma. For me Zuma always won out. After visiting Nobu last night the situation hasn’t changed.
Last time I visited Nobu at the Shore Club was 5 years ago, and I don’t remember a bar being outside it’s entrance. This time it was where I met my friend David for drinks before we ate. The place was busy, busy, busy. Surprise surprise.
I had a mimosa, David drank water and coffee. Soon we were guided to our table - the corner table with wrap around seating was immediately inside the entrance. I would never have chosen that seating myself. However since I was a guest I didn’t insist on changing the seating – I couldn’t see any free tables anyway.
The uber-busyiness of the place kind of surprised me after all this time, particularly as I’m more used to the contemporary beauty and large space of Zuma. But then, Zuma is in Brickell, Nobu in South Beach – maybe a lot of people who visit South Beach don’t know about Zuma. David didn’t.
South Beach Nobu has low ceilings and wooden-looking walls. Maybe it’s sheets of bamboo – who cares? I loathe the wooden wall look (a reason why I’ve never returned to Perricone’s Italian restaurant in Brickell). Obviously a lot of people don’t feel that way. Still, wooden/bamboo walls just aren’t the norm in jet set restaurants. Which Nobu is considered to be, with it’s often wealthy and powerful clientele.
We were there around 9.30pm and Nobu was extremely busy with it’s international crowd, including young children even in strollers. This is a common Miami sight but to Europeans like me it’s often a bit of a shock to see kids out so late.
Food in Nobu can never be faulted. Well, not that I’ve heard of or in my experience. The Japanese cuisine with it’s signature stars of blackened miso cod and green tea ice cream with hot chocolate inside can never fail to appeal to anyone with a working palate. But you never know. There are freaks on planet earth.
We ordered a ceviche sampler which was small but delightful – a plate with four sections with different types of ceviche. One was tuna based, one if I heard the waiter correctly was escargot but didn’t taste like it, one with four rolls of fish that David reckoned had jalapeno in it, because at first you bite into it and don’t taste too much hotness then a fiery taste slowly grows in your mouth. We liked it! The fourth section had what appeared to be a more tradional style Peruvian mixed ceviche of different types of fish with lime, peppers, and very thinly sliced onions.
Next David had the awesome blackened miso cod. (Guess what, Zuma does it too!) This signature dish is a delicately cooked piece of cod flavored with what tastes to me like sweetened miso, and it’s darkened with that sauce too. Blackened miso cod never fails to delight and this night it was as deliciously tender and flavorful as always.
Next we both had sashimi; a small amount for David, a larger amount for me. I had the Chef’s choice and it included choice pieces of salmon and tuna, and also octopus, which I thought was kind of a surprising choice for the Chef’s special. I don’t think octopus is so flavorful in sashimi. My taste preference is for it to be marinated Italian style and I can’t see the point of it’s addition in the Chef’s choice. Maybe the subtlety of the chef’s choice escaped me – who knows? And who cares? Because all I wanted was to enjoy one of my favorite types of food, raw fish, and I did.
My request for Ikura to accompany my sashimi was ignored, and I’ve never experienced a waiter get so intimate with my food as one did that night. When the waiter delivered my sashimi he pointed out and named the different elements of my meal with his finger disastrously close to my fish. Of course I didn’t like it, and again I stayed unusually quiet about my concern. Sometimes I complain about things I don’t like in restaurants, sometimes I don’t.
Neither David or I chose to have dessert that night, not even the gobsmacking excellence of the green tea ice cream with hot chocolate inside. Yum!
Desserts are seldom my indulgence but fine wine/champagne/vodka/whatever usually is. As David is a teetotaler I only drank my initial mimosa and one glass of cabernet sauvignon. The latter came in one of those slimmer wine glasses and I really enjoy and prefer the wider, more pronounced wine glasses that you can roll your wine round in. It really does make a difference – both to the wine and the experience.
Our bill came to a figure approaching $250 without tip. Not at all a figure untypical of Nobu, or Zuma either. (Zuma – what’s not to like? Probably the bill. I’ve never paid a check there but I did pay a tip once – and yes, it would have bought Japanese for two at a cheaper place. But we did have a lot of drinks that night.)
Yes it was a nice experience in Nobu, but it’s main competitior Zuma always come out on top for me, as I said. When I lived in London I was always irritated by the tiny white tables in Nobu on Park Lane, where you could easily hear your neighbour’s conversation and they could hear yours. Also I really disliked the fact that Nobu London had two table seatings a night, so if you chose the earlier time you had to hurry up with your meal. I love being able to sit around after dinner and talk and drink until whenever we feel we’ve had enough.
Fortunately Nobu in South Beach doesn’t have two seatings a night (these days?), and the tables aren’t so disastrously close as in London. Still, Zuma in Brickell is a much more beautiful, elegant place, and has additional elements on their menu which I adore – like assorted Japanese pickles which I often choose as a starter. Zuma also has a view across the water to the Icon buildings, and sometimes that water holds interesting things like luxury yachts with their own helicopter pads. Always nice to have a view.
If you have a generous budget that allows you to eat out at good restaurants, try them both. If you want the best, try Zuma. In my opinion.
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