One way to stand out from the indistinguishable crowd of mediocre Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong is to have a killer view. Then, put a world famous chef with over 27 restaurants worldwide behind the helm. Once you’ve taken that all into account, you’ll understand why Hong Kong’s exclusive and highly acclaimed Nobu branch at The Intercontinental deserves its place on every Japanophile’s dining list. Far from the size of the Nobu empire diminishing the special nature of the restaurant, this is probably one of the world’s most reputable and reliable “chains” with celebrity and foodie fans the world over. A meal here is almost guaranteed to delight and amaze.
With HK island’s skyline serving as a mesmerising backdrop through the floor to ceiling glass windows, the restaurant’s interior is no less impressive with exceptionally mood enhancing lighting, bamboo embedded terrazzo walls and a ceiling made to mimic the undulations in a sea urchin. Nobu at The Intercontinental perfectly sets the scene for a special meal.
What impressed me most about the drinks list was the impossibly large range of sakes on offer. Although I’m not much of a sake connoisseur myself, our ever obliging waiter luckily guided us to the perfect sake choice that would match the range of food we were to be sampling throughout the evening. Cocktails, beers and wines are on offer as well should you so desire.
Faultless from the moment we entered, the staff were gracious, helpful and far from patronising when it came to dishing out advice or prompting us helpfully to ensure we used the right sauce with the right dish. My gluten intolerance was sensitively taken into account and never seen as a hindrance.
Nobu has a unique approach to Japanese dining with a hint of Peruvian influence, stemming from the time a young Chef Nobu spent living in South America. They also stand proudly in their home cities, infusing a local influence and ingredients into the menu, whilst allowing their resident Executive chef’s to inject some individual culinary flare.
The menu at Nobu is mightily overwhelming, which for indecisive folk like myself can prove a little intimidating. Preferring to outsource decision-making, we opted to try both of the omakase menus on offer that night. Omakase means ‘chef’s choice’, and one set was the Signature Tasting Dinner comprising of Nobu’s world famous classics, while the other was a seasonal Autumnal Omakase.
The contrast between the two was perfect. The signature menu gave us insight into chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s innovative cooking style. Stand out dishes were the irreplaceable Black Cod Saikyo Yaki, which was perfectly tender and so infused with flavour it melted in your mouth, and the King Crab Tempura. What I loved most though were the notable Peruvian influences throughout the menu. An impossibly delicious US Short Beef with a predominantly Japanese marinade had a surprising South American kick to it in the form of an Anticucho sauce.
Totalling eight courses, all were delightfully presented as well as ideally portioned to leave you feeling satiated but not stuffed, complimenting each other fantastically. For me, the mark of an exceptional Japanese restaurant always comes in the form of the fish. Nobu’s selection did not disappoint. I had initially worried that the first amazing dish of Salmon Tartar with Caviar could only set me up for disappointment for the rest of the meal, it was that light and flavoursome, but my New Style Scallop Sashimi and Signature Sushi Selection both blew my mind with the freshness of the fish, the authenticity of the flavours and the creativity of their presentation.
I have to admit to initially being more sceptical about the seasonal menu, as I tend to stick to restaurants’ more tried and testing offerings. But I couldn’t resist the sound of the dishes, which were even more intriguing and inventive than those on the signature menu. Capitalising not only on nature’s autumnal bounty, but also interjecting numerous local ingredients alongside their Japanese counterparts, the dishes did not fail to amaze us.
One of the most impressive courses was the trio of sashimi, including an Uni Tiradito, Tuna Crown with Jalapeno Dressing and Sanma Sashimi with Aji Amarllio Ponzu. I honestly had no clue what most of those ingredients were, but I can attest to their utter deliciousness. For most courses, it was neck and neck on which menu we preferred, with incredible flavours constantly competing for our admiration. Ironically, it was the seasonal beef dish, Wagyu Beef with Wasabi Salsa, which stole the show for me over its more South American counterpart. Whilst on the whole I loved the Peruvian interjections, nothing in my mind can beat the impossibly soft and tender taste of authentic Japanese Wagyu beef.
Both desserts were deliciously moreish, whilst light and not too sweet. The seasonal Caramelized Banana Tofu was great on its own, but beautifully enhanced by the accompanying brown butter ice cream, whereas the signature Soy Panna Cotta with Balsamico Granita was less of a crowd pleaser but delighted the senses and taste buds nonetheless.
The food was faultless, service impeccable, ingredients of the highest quality and then there was that view; making Nobu Hong Kong the perfect date night venue. It’s not cheap with the signature tasting menu costing $1,088 and the seasonal totting in at a steep $1,488, but its great value considering the range and quantity of high quality Japanese ingredients you get. If you’re looking for a show-stopping Japanese meal for a celebration; this is it. We’re keen to return though and try their Sunday lunch offering. More sedate than some of its rowdy counterparts, its only $498 per person or $648 with free flowing sake and comprises of a choice of four appetisers, one main (with options including the black cod which alone normally costs $350!), one noodle or rice dish and then if you still have space, a Japanese themed dessert (chocolate bento box anyone?!). Equally as intriguing is their Japanese infused afternoon T-set; for just $288 you get a mix of umami and sweet dishes that will change the way you view afternoon tea forever.
Nobu, The Intercontinental Hong Kong, www.hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com/dining/nobu.php, 2313 2323