Food as Art – Nobu

Restaurant: Nobu Malibu

Location: 3835 Cross Creek Road # 18, Malibu, CA 90265 (310) 317-9140

Date: Febuary 16, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Fusion

Rating: Maintains it’s very high standards, and price.


In my continuing quest to eat the oceans of the earth clean in the form of sushi I returned to one of my “old” haunts, Nobu Malibu. The various Nobus represent the corporate version of the Japanese-Peruvian fusion begun by Nobu Matsuhisa at his eponymous Matsuhisa (REVIEW HERE). While not quite as inventive as the original, the Xerox job is pretty darn good. Food quality is extremely high and highly consistant. The atmosphere is fun. The only deficit is the price, which is perhaps 40-50% higher than most similar restaurants, like say Takao (REVIEW HERE). And it’s not like these are cheap either!

From my cellar, parker gives this Rhone white 94 points. “The 2006 Chateauneuf du Pape blanc (80% Roussanne and the rest Marsanne, Picpoul, and Bourboulenc) possesses classic notes of orange marmalade, honeysuckle, and rose petals, a full-bodied, unctuous texture, gorgeous purity and richness, and a stunningly long finish. It can compete with the finest full-throttle, dry whites of France as well as the world. It is difficult to find a better white Chateauneuf du Pape than Beaucastel. Much like their reds, their whites are made in a style that is atypical for the appellation. It is put through full malolactic, and one-third is barrel fermented, then blended with the two-thirds that is aged in tank. Extraordinarily rich and honeyed, it is ideal for drinking with intensely flavored culinary dishes.”

In the glass, this has a nice yellow/amber color not seen in duller (read generic Chardonnay) wines.

“Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno.” The total Nobu classic, but it still holds it’s own. This version is as good as any i’ve had.

“Sashimi Salad.” Another Nobu classic. The dressing has this nice flavor and texture I’ve always liked, and the mildly seared tuna is succulent. The overall salad is a bit salty, but Japanese cuisine usually is.

“New Style Sashimi.” Classic again. Apparently this is very Peruvian, although I wouldn’t know directly as my closest contact to that country was an hour spent in Lima airport. However, the halibut is supremely tender, and the warm olive oil, ponzu and sesame thing gives it a toasty richness.

“Shrimp Tempura with Ponzu Sauce.” More classics. I’ve always loved these little fellows. Basically the normal Shrimp Tempura, but pre sauced, and in smaller bite sized chunks. Addictive, but eat quickly before it sogs up.

“Rosemary crusted Scallops in sweet and sour crust with cilantro sauce.” This was my first new dish of the night, and it was pretty incredible. The pseudo fried crisp on the scallops was a bit sweet, and the cilantro sauce mild, but it all went together perfectly, and inspired marriage of textures and flavors.

“Lobster Sweet and Sour.” Another new dish, and pretty delectable. Tender lobster on a spinach bed, with a subdued sweet and sour sauce and then the whatever-it-was on top adding a bit of texture.

“Austrialian Wagyu Beef, butter truffle sauce and crispy onions.” Yum. The beef was almost like candy, sweet and rich. The onion-ring-like crisps were good for soaking up the sauce.


“Miso Soup.” Classic, and as expected.

A bit of sushi.

In the front, Tai (red snapper) with shiso, toro (tuna belly). The white thing with frisy stuff on top I can’t remember.

In the middle, Kani (king crab leg) sushi.

In the back, Unagi (Fresh Water eel).

The white stuff in the middle. Ika (squid) with shiso leaf and a bit of ginger.

The yellow chunks Tamago (sweet omelet).

On the left Ikura (salmon roe) and on the right Uni (sea urchin).

Completely stuffed, we rolled out of here well satisfied. My only complaint is that Nobu is so expensive. For example the “Toro Tartar w/ Caviar” is $36 compared to $25 at Takao — identical too.

Swish Swish – Mizu 212

Restaurant: Mizu 212

Location: 2000 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025 (310)478-8979

Date: December 17, 2010

Cuisine: Japanese Shabu Shabu

Rating: Best Shabu Shabu in town


Shabu Shabu is a form of Japanese cuisine where various meats and vegetables are cooked table side in boiling broth. Literally the name means “swish swish” for the sound the food makes as it is swished in the boiling water. In Japan one might get the impression that Shabu Shabu, like all Japanese culinary specialties, has been an inherited tradition since neolithic times, but in fact it entered the vocabulary only during World War II. Japanese soldiers in China encountered the ubiquitous Mongolian Hot Pot. But the Japanese are nothing if not masters at the art of culinary assimilation. They have a special ability to take the dishes of others and make them uniquely their own.

Mizu 212 is one of many excellent Japanese restaurants on Sawtelle. They do only Shabu Shabu and it’s all organic.

Each seat has a little hot plate.

On which is installed the pot of broth.

Hot green tea.

Part of the allure of shabu shabu are the sauces. The sesame sauce on the left and the ponzu on the right. The sesame sauce — like the cuisine itself — is borrowed from China. Loosely the sesame is for meat, and the ponzu is for veggies. But the unmodified sauces are just the beginning.

These are the basic condiments. From left to right: Chili oil, scallions, daikon radish, chili powder, and in front garlic!

The sesame gets a huge dose of garlic, as does the ponzu. But the ponzu also gets scallions and radish — and garlic.

There are also the advanced condiments, available on request. Both really help the ponzu shine. The yuzu on the left (juice from a Japanese lime) adds zest, and the chili is HOT! In a perfect kind of green hot. I find that red chili hot doesn’t go so well with shabu shabu — but green does.


The finished sauces.

And the actual food arrives. The vegetable plate. All sorts of organic goodness, plus some tofu and udon noodles.

The beef. This is a large plate of vintage aged beef. Mizu actually has about half a dozen meat options, including two different types of Kobe beef, plus chicken, lamb, and numerous types of fish. But beef is traditional.

The pot after a few rounds of veggies are added. Part of the key here is to cook each thing for just the appropriate length of time..

The beef cooks very quickly.

Swish, swish and voila!

Finished. Slather in the garlicky mizu and enjoy.

After all the cooking the meat fats are about all that’s left. Not so appealing.

The remains. There is a endless rice too. After you remove meat or vegetables from the broth, and dip it in one or the other sauces you can rest it to cool on the rice. That way, by the end the rice has become nicely saturated with sauce and fat.

As loyal (and repeat customers) we were treated to a round of homemade blood orange sorbet at the end. Yum!

Rows of other customers enjoying their private feasts. Not only is this meal good, and reasonably healthy, but it entertains too.

Food as Art: Urwasawa

Restaurant: Urasawa

Location: 218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, 310-247-8939

Date: Feb 16, 2010

Cuisine: Japanese

Rating: Mind blowing, but a hefty blow below the money-belt.

I’ve been here four or five times over the years, both in it’s older incarnation as Ginza Sushi-Ko under the supervision of chef Masa Takayama and in recent years when helmed by his disciple Hiroyuki Urasawa. To tell the truth, given my limited sampling, I think the student has surpassed the teacher. This is no strip mall sushi joint, but a deliberate effort to maximize the impact of flavor and presentation to the nth degree. This includes an almost gratuitous use of exotic and luxurious ingredients — not to mention gold foil. There are no menus here, no choices, just an expensive parade of delectables the chef selects. The place is tiny, only about 8 sushi bar seats and two little private rooms (one table each). This time we had a room as there were five of us celebrating a birthday.

It’s been a little while so forgive me if I miss-remember some ingredients.

We start with some Toro (ultra rich tuna belly) wrapping a special kind of tofu, banded by daikon, topped with scallions and the omnipresent gold fold, and dosed with ponzu. Yum. Notice the shabby presentation.

I can’t even remember what this was. But it had gold foil too.

Sashimi. Look at this presentation. Ice has been carved into a form of sculpture. Flowers and little rocks adorn. The fish was melt in your mouth.

Caviar with a few other bits on the spoon. Might have been Uni. Everything was delicious here, although if you’re some kind of land-lubber, stay home, pretty much 95% seafood.

Gold foil again. This dish had that kind of subtle Unami flavor profile that is unique to asian cuisines. I happen to love this kind of salty/savory flavor. I think there was a traditional egg custard underneath.

Tempura, very traditional style with the little mound of Daikon radish one can add. I can’t remember what was fried up, but I’m sure it was something rich like lobster. Or it might even have been Fugu (blow fish).

I bet this spider crab didn’t think its body would end up being the cooking pot for its own meat. But it did, with a little Uni (Sea Urchin) to add some extra zest. Again very subtle flavors, and very juicy crab.

This was sort of the ultimate shabu-shabu. Below is a peice of kobe beef, some Akimo (Monfish liver), some japanese scallop and something else I can’t remember. They are cooked in the heated broth in the upper left (very briefly, by swish swishing them — that is what shabu-shabu means), and then dipped in the tangy ponzu. The resulting broth, rich from the fats of the beef and liver you drink as a soup.

I think this is the above broth after it was served to eat.

Some of the sushi got eaten before I got my camera aimed. The sushi here is incredibly good. Even the ginger is all hand made.

More sushi, classics such as Maguro, Hamachi, and Ika (squid), but spectacularly tasty.

More sushi. I think you can technically keep on getting it as long as you have room (for the same high high price), but one fills quickly.

This is the big slab of Kobe beef that is the source of the bits we were eating.


Toro, Uni, and some kind of clam.

Three different grades of Toro. A rare treat.

I think a mackerel, or maybe more than one type, and some thing else.

I of course, being a dedicated gourmand (i.e. glutton) kept on letting them bring me more and more rounds.

The very best sort of grilled sea eel.

It is traditional to judge a sushi chef by the quality of his Tomago, or sweet omelet. Urwasawa passed muster.

A refreshing course of various plums and pressed fruit things. Much more sour than American taste would normally allow.

Red bean paste — which I’m not normally a fan of, but this one was great. Not pasty, but smooth with a nice crunch from the topping, not only the signature gold foil, but crumbled nuts of some sort, adding a pleasant richness. This was accompanied by very special green tea, frothed to a foamy consistency, but with a nice bitterness.

And then a VERY high end “tea ceremony” brown tea.

The overall meal was exquisite, blending fully food, ambiance and style. I forgot to photo my wine but I brought a number of high end whites including my last bottle of the 1986 Chateau Y, which is the almost dry secret wine of Château d’Yquem.