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I lunched at Nobu in December '99 and had an exquisite meal. The black cod with miso and squid pasta were particularly impressive.

Then, I had dinner at Next Door Nobu in Autumn '00 and Spring '01. By most accounts NDN is as good as, if not better, than Nobu. For some reason, though I was less impressed with each visit. While the toro tartare with caviar and new-style sashimi were wonderful, the cod and squid pasta didn't seem as good as I remember. (I should have ordered the Omakase, but each time I was dining with Nobu newcomers)

I can't decide whether I simply became jaded (after just one visit) or if these dishes have actually declined in quality (they also seemed smaller, but I can't be sure).

Any thoughts?

P.S. Although Nobu (and Japanese restaurants in general) is not known for dessert, I swear that the citrus cheesecake is one of the best desserts I've ever had. Maybe I'm just weird.

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I've not noticed any such decline, though I have noticed (and written somewhere, though I don't remember where -- maybe it was in my dreams) that Nobu's cuisine doesn't provide as much pleasure upon repeat samplings because the pleasant surprise isn't as pronounced. That's why I always try to do omakase and specify to the sushi chef that I've done it many times before -- usually he'll create a menu that is 90% new.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It's been years since Morimoto actually participated in Nobu's day-to-day activities. His departure was a mere formality. Anyway, Shin at Next Door is in my opinion more talented -- he's just not a publicity hog.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Quote: from Fat Guy on 12:59 pm on Aug. 29, 2001

It's been years since Morimoto actually participated in Nobu's day-to-day activities. His departure was a mere formality. Anyway, Shin at Next Door is in my opinion more talented -- he's just not a publicity hog.

he was there last july when we were there.  i imagine if he was there, he was cooking or overseeing at the very least?  i hope so.  he's my hero.  i have a picture of him with a blender, but that's for another thread.

and i've never seen him as a "publicity hog."  he seems pretty low key in my opinion.  the term "hog" should be used only for Booby Flay.  let's face it, most of us wouldn't want to have him over to our homes.

can i start an "I Loathe Booby Flay" thread?

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He made appearances but during the last year of his employment he was not managing the kitchen. I'd question whether there could be any correlation between Nobu's quality and Morimoto's presence or absence. And if being one of the Iron Chefs doesn't make you a publicity hog, I don't know what does!

Feel free to start a Bobby Flay thread, but beware: Rosie has a not-so-secret crush on him.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Morimoto-bashing aside, I've eaten a Nobu a number of times since it opened and have become less impressed each visit. Maybe, as Steven suggests, it's the lack of surprise. Which is not a testiment to the essential quality of the food. I've only eaten at Next Door once. Can you get Omakase there?

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Yes, you can get omakase at Next Door. When it first opened, there was no official omakase at Next Door but you could get it anyway by asking. But in the past year or so they've actually added it in print to the menu. Other than the reservations policy, there is currently very little difference between the two restaurants policy-wise.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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had omakase lunch there yesterday, actually. service was a bit iffy, but they were really slammed and i was in no hurry, so i didn't mind. food was great i thought. i was a little disappointed about getting items i had had before (i told them i'd been there many times) but it was all good and i could have their soft-shell crap from now till christmas and not be sick of it.

the thing i was really impressed and surprised with was my dessert. it was a rasberry-tapioca thing. i have some strange irrational dislike of tapioca (probably spawning from my grandmother) but this was really great -- tart, with a zing that i think must have been champagne or prosecco or something. they've still got it.

"If it's me and your granny on bongos, then it's a Fall gig'' -- Mark E. Smith

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The one time I went to nobu a few months ago for dinner I also felt the service was pretty lousy. In a sushi restaurant I think thats probably the worst thing you can do, because you are serving fresh fish. We were sitting at the bar too.

The food was really good, we tried all the signature dishes, but I wasnt blown away. I vastly prefer a more traditional place like Sushisay or Karumazushi or Yasuda.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Nobu is one of those restaurants where you need to take control of the experience to get the best, and even then it doesn't always work. This is to some extent true of any restaurant, but seems to be more true of Japanese restaurants in general, and even more true of Nobu specifically. For starters, I only eat at Next Door. I only sit at the sushi bar. I only order omakase and I always bump up a few dollars from the base price (this gets you more and better courses, and a bit of increased respect). I try to interact as much as possible with the sushi chef. If I get something I've had before, I say, this is delicious, but I've had it before -- I hope you'll really surprise me on the next course. They usually rise to the challenge. It also of course helps to establish a relationship with a particular sushi chef as I have with Shin Tsujimura. Anybody who goes, feel free to use my name with him -- say you're my Internet buddy. It probably won't do much, but may bring a flicker of recognition. I've found, however, that even when I go and Shin isn't there I do just as well with the sushi chefs that don't know me, once I establish the rapport.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 2 months later...

In spite of less-precise service and the room needing a facelift (or perhaps, more appropriately, a tummy tuck), I found, after a nearly two-year hiatus from being a regular, the food at Nobu to be pretty much as I left it: innovative, direct, unpretentious, and very satisfying. We and our friends stayed with dishes we pretty much used to have: Sashimi salad; black cod with miso; rock shrimp with ponzu sauce; Atlantic char with fried spinach leaves (new to us) some cut rolls and more. It's as I remember, although my wife who is a gifted restaurant analyst thought Nobu was even a bit better now than then.

(Edited by robert brown at 12:13 pm on Nov. 6, 2001)

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  • 1 month later...

In contrast to the undescribable spiritual experience that Sugiyama offers, where I have been, I got a taste of why New York might be the food capital of the world. If unknown and exotic is not your cup of tea (I dig it)and you would like some of the most innovative food in the city, Nobu is the ticket. A perfect antidote to the underwhelming French centric meals offered all over the city.

The overall experience was significantly better since I knew more. They were extremely flexible. Two of us ordered omakase dinners while the two others went a la carte. I nixed the shell fish (allergies). They even agreed to my no fried courses request.

First - Toro sashimi with jalapeno/citrus sauce and topped with caviar (providing a touch of saltiness). This was bodhisattva quality tuna. Excellent even though the shock factor was not there (I had had it before).

Second - monkfish liver pate with salmon roe - really excellent (among the best I have had). better than at sugiyama.

Third - Japanese snapper slices with assorted root vegetable julienne and basil dressing - v good.

Fourth - Grilled halibut with a side of noodles (forgot the name) with sesame white truffle oil and a raw quail egg in the center. It was really subtle and excellent flavor.

Fifth - main course of rare seared duck slices topped with some vegetables and seared foie gras. This is definitely some of the best red meat I have had.

Sixth - Sushi course (5 pcs) which was not amazing (Mr. Sugiyama's fish from Nirvana is much better) but still good topped off with miso soup (nothing tops off your Japanese dinner like this lovely broth with velvety tofu. My friend's had an oyster in it.)

aaaahhh! I was riding on clouds.

Seven - their dessert is nothing to write home about. Some carmalized banana slices with some coconut/banana sauce and some kind of cake like thing in the middle.

My wife realized after my first course that she had made a big mistake - kept mooching off of me all night. She ordered some tempura, miso soup, vegetarian rolls and yellowfish tuna sashimi with jalapeno slices and citrus sauce (twice).

Top to bottom consistent (that oh so hard to find quality even at Sugiyama) and excellent dinner - definitely the best meal this year.

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Hi there, welcome to eGullet, and thanks for that detailed and delicious report! When Nobu is on, it's one of the best restaurants around in my opinion. May I ask, if it's not too intrusive, what price omakase did you go with? Was all this stuff included at the standard base price, or did you go higher?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Actually I have posted here before (voberoi) but had to register again 'cause wanted to post from work and did not have my password handy.

We did the 贘 omakase. My wife did not do the omakase and the bill was reasonable. The previous time I went, it came to about 175 pp (2x120 omakase) incl tip. Not bad considering what I paid at Lespinasse and Jean Georges and other French places in the city. However, Babbo and Nobu are more moderately priced. Given that those two provided two of the top 3 dinners this year in the city (Sugiyama being the 3rd but more expensive), I can see why it is so hard to get in.

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Vivin-Glad to see you like Sugiyama. I'm a big fan. I go 3-4 times a year and know them well. On the occassional Sunday, you can find Chef Naos sitting in my box at Shea rooting for Shinjo. I know Nobu less well, though I've eaten there twice and in London once. I've had some thrilling dishes at Nobu, but I couldn't ever seem to get an entire meal that was thrilling. But I have never tried ordering the Omakase there. Your post convinced me to go back and give it a try. But Nobu always struck me as a little gimmicky. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's just too much of a scene for a gastronomic temple.  

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I was hoping someone could clarify a couple of points:

1.  Where is Sugiyama located?

2.  Is it difficult to get a reservation--esepcially at the sushi bar?

3.  How much more expensive should one expect an exemplary meal to run?

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Ajay-Sugiyama is on 55th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue. I do not find it that difficult to get a reservation there except on Friday and Saturday nights.

I find eating at the Omakase Bar to be a better experience than being at a table but it's limited to two people. The 10 course meal is 贄. But if you ask for the best quality there is an upcharge. With a good bottle of sake, tip and tax, dinner can easily be 贶-赨 a person.

Sugiyama is an ingredient intensive place. You have to hit it lucky. Some days they have kobe quality beef, and some days they have top quality kobe beef. It's just a matter of picking the right day, or knowing them well enough so they will call you when the top ingredients come in. Same with some of those funny Japanese mushrooms they serve. Some days they have them, some days they don't. I think the food is better in the winter for some reason. Maybe because more unusual ingredients are available.

Some favorite dishes are, Lobster in Garlic Sauce with Monkfish Liver (it's like Foie Gras), Crispy Fried Soft Shell Crabs, and when they have top quality kobe beef it's mindblowing. Of course the Black Cod roasted in Miso is fantastic. If I understood Chef Naos correctly, he used to be the Omakase chef at Matshuisha (the original Nobu) in L.A. and the black cod is a Chef Naos invention.

I've taken many people to dinner there and some people flip out and some don't see the big deal. Vivan got it right when he said its a spritual experience.  Nobu is much more flashy. Sugiyama is much simpler and is more about creating a flurry of textures and flavors. And more importantly, Chef Naos is a Met fan :~).

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Ajay,

I would encourage you to check out the detailed account by my friend Mao (link included) of his Sugiyama trip(s) on the chowhound board. If you really want to experience the depth of his skills, omakase (what ever the chef pleases) is the way to go (I think it is 贝 pp). Unfortunately, Sugiyama does not get the kind of press like Nobu. So it is easy to get a reservation at the bar (where the Bodhisattva himself serves you). Good luck..

http://www.chowhound.com/boards/manhat/messages/26432.html

Vivin'>http://www.chowhound.com/boards/manhat/mes...82.html

Vivin

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Dinner ran me 趚, though that included a ็ bottle of sake that they will hold until I arrive again.  One of the nicer restuarant touches I have encountered, besides GT's propaganda mailings.

Food is very seasonal and that is the point of kaiseki.  I agree that you can also experience ingrediant roulette on occasion.  Kobe beef was OK first trip and superlative the next.  But you can get around this by simply asking for only what is very fresh, and he will happily oblige-I think there are people who go there expecting to be served what was described in Ruth Reichel (sp? sorry) review from a few years ago, and so he feels obliged to keep certain signature dishes in the omakase.  Among these items is Kobe beef and the monkfish liver pate and zensai, which are always good, but seem the few constants on an ever changing menu.  Unlike you I am actually much less fond of Sugiyama's grilled dishes than the cold and raw stuff.

Its also a very particular experience-textually oriented as Japanese cuisine is with the emphasis on small tastes.  It is in every sense the antithesis of the Steakhouse experience, which has its own merits.  I would never bring my streak frites loving father there.  People have their food biases and there is nothing wrong to admitting to them, unless you are a paid critic.

Sugiyama also shatters the stereotypes of Americanized Japanese food-sushi, yakitori, tempura and noodles.  Five people were there is front of me when I arrived, and exclaimed, "They don't have any sushi rolls or noodles, let's go" and they went next door to one of the branches of the East chain where they no doubt got the food they expected.  

Also, and apologies for being schoolteachery pedantic, his name is actually Sugiyama Nao, not Naos.  I think its cool he likes the Mets though.  he's pretty laidback and played air guiter for a few minutes in a respite of food preperation.

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People have their food biases and there is nothing wrong to admitting to them, unless you are a paid critic.
I think I understand what you mean, but I wonder if it wouldn't be best for food critics to admit their prejudices so we could better understand them when they try to be objective. It would be a whole lot better than having to read them for a year to try and learn their prejudices. Some people have a wider range of tastes than others and some people are able to appreciate things outside their preferred range of tastes, but we all have our preferences and blind spots.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Bux - You know critics that try to be objective? You're a better man than I. Most (okay many) think their review is the end all and be all and that "true" criticism has to be hard hitting and opinionated. I never understand that. I have certain biases that I am more than happy to disclose when I write about a place. I'm not sure why people who do it for a living refuse to acknowledge

there is a different point of view.

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Steve, I'd probably accept "most" as long as we stay away from the universal "all." I won't pretend to know many critics who try to be objective, just ones who pretend to be objective. We'll agree that's not the same thing. Shaw, are you making a living from your reviews these days or can I adapt a universal attidue towards reviewers making a living? Anyway, hard hitting and opinionated reviews can be the interesting. They could also be useful if we know the prejudices of the reviewer.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Bux, that would depend how you define "making a living." If you define it simply as not dying, then yes, I make a living as a critic. I got paid just today to write a restaurant review for one of the cityguide Web sites. It wasn't much -- enough to dine conservatively at Gray's Papaya for a month, perhaps -- but it was enough such that I can claim to be a paid critic this month.

It is of course difficult to generalize about critics. In most fields, you'll find a range of styles. You'll also find a range of styles within the collected works of any individual critic. Some restaurants drive a critic to be hard-hitting and opinionated. Some require explanation. Some simply provoke a lot of praise. Different critics have different thresholds, and different approaches, but only the bad ones think being outrageously opinionated is part of the job. Alas, there are too many bad ones.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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