My new friend SB and wife B were all too kind to have hosted me at Matsuhisa - a place to see and be seen in LA. Matsuhisa is Nobu san's first owned restaurant (circa 1987) and so the nostalgia alone was exciting for me. More than 30 years later, it still does a roaring business, judging from the packed crowds on a Tuesday night.
We did get to chat with Nobu san, who despite taking rushing about and taking many calls, had time to stop by our table and reminisce with SB about the late Bruce Parker, rest his soul. As for people spotting, we spotted Jason Stratham from the Transporter.
With distractions out of the way, I was excited at the opportunity to compare the food with that of his Hong Kong restaurant, where I had been a couple of times.
The seafood spring roll with caviar was an impressive start. Chunks of crab meat rolled in a well-fried spring roll pastry served in a martini glass with a grapefruit-based sauce, topped with caviar, was decadently tasty. Such a variety of tastes and textures coming together very well. Even the contrasting temperatures from the heat of the spring roll with the chilled grapefruit sauce were such that you didn't have to burn your tongue while savouring it immediately when served.
The Yellowtail Jalapeno is signature Nobu and I can never get enough of this one. A good cut of Yellowtail, firm but creamy and well-chilled, served in a ponzu soy sauce, and laced with thin Jalapeno slices. Again, a nice play of combining a moderately fatty fish with a refreshing citrus sauce, and then add a little heat from the chilies. Brilliant.
Another signature from Nobu - the Rock Shrimp tempura with Ponzu sauce. I thought the Hong Kong version was better executed since this one got soggy too quickly but otherwise, good enough to pop in your mouth until the last one.
The Eggplant with Miso sauce is a favourite of mine, and SB and B loved it too. SB liked it so much he even ate the skin. And why not, most nutrients are there anyway. The use of sweet miso and toasted sesame gave it an addictive fragrance, and because the miso is sweet, you don't get clenched jaws which you might if it were the salty kind. And steamed eggplant contributes the fibre intake for the day! Yay!
The Washugyu (or short rib) was a first for me, and boy, did it NOT disappoint. Lovely marbled short ribs grilled to perfection, served atop Japanese abalone mushrooms, still stirring in the juices of the ribs, were a delight. So simple, yet so well executed, and capitalising purely on the quality of the meat.
Dessert was a lovely chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream and raspberries. Well, you may think this is done to death. So did I. But I loved the fondant for its pudding-like consistency, unlike the usual cake-like ones. Because of this, it absorbed enough of the yummy custard-like sauce and went well with the vanilla bean ice cream. I was guilty of eating the most of this, even though it was meant to be shared. SB and B were too kind to fight me on this one I think..
There were some misses though.. the Spicy Tuna handroll was shockingly flacid and tiny. The seaweed was so chewy that it was almost rude to eat. Very disappointing considering the number of sushi chefs at the counter waiting to serve. The other dish which was so-so was the Spicy Tuna salad which was drowning in dressing and didn't taste of much else. A waste considering the fish was so fresh.
Overall, still a great place to hang out - and given its appeal as an "old" restaurant, almost a place where only the seasoned ones go. I am told De Niro/Nicholson types have their own private corners..