I just had a great sushi dinner at Nobu in New York City. It’s supposedly impossible to get a reservation, but I called on a whim and got a table for the next night. A pleasant surprise as my sister in law was in town and they *had* to experience the best sushi in the world, and the stars aligned. The food was great, the conversation stunning, and the evening was a great success (including the taxi incident, a painfully entertaining story for another time). But while the sushi was excellent, I don’t think I’ll be going back. The sushi at Nobu was no better than any good sushi I’ve had at the better restaurants in my area, just with more hype.
I hear the screams, the sighs, the rants, but please hear me out. I work in Manhattan and live just outside of it. I eat sushi a lot. I’ve been to most of the “best” sushi restaurants in NYC and the tri-state area. I’ve ordered omakase at most of them, and I’ve eaten off-menu where I was a familiar enough face to the itamae that he’d offer me items he had found but didn’t have enough of to put on the special menu. I admit I am jaded, but everything I’ve heard of Nobu suggested beauty, excellence, and an experience beyond just dinner. But in actuality, I just had a very expensive dinner. My favorite sushi restaurant, which is in the ‘burbs about 15 minutes from my house has sushi that is just as good, and presented just as well (if not better) than my dinner at Nobu. I don’t need to have “Nobu” stamped on everything to make my dinner great, just high quality seafood, decent service, and a pleasant atmosphere. I got that at Nobu. I get it at my local sushi-ya. I also get it at all the other “great” places I’ve been.
My point is not that I am in some way special. Anyone can get great sushi meal if they try and if you spend the time to get to know your itamae, you too will be the beneficiary of some of the “goodies” under the bar that aren’t available to the general public as well. And that is exactly my point. There are many great sushi-ya and you can enjoy yourself without having to go to Nobu, where the food is just as good, and the presentation no better than other restaurants that try hard to please their clientele. You just won’t have to pay the 50% premium to have “Nobu” stamped on your masu when drinking your sake.
I have always been fascinated by the creation and culture of different foods, particularly sushi and sashimi in the modern era of Japanese cuisine. I am a classically trained chef and sushi connoisseur, also having operated a food service company and enjoy investigating and experimenting with food around the world.