West Hollywood: Chasing Uni Tempura at Nobu
It started innocently enough. I was wandering online and spotted this recipe for Nobu‘s Uni Shiso Tempura by Gastrophoria. I immediately sent it to my good friend, uni lover Ali Loves LA. Instead of actually making the uni tempura, we decided to make reservations for Nobu instead. After carefully studying the menu for Nobu West Hollywood and Nobu Malibu, we opted for the WeHo location since this coveted dish was listed.
Ali and AK got there a bit before me so they enjoyed happy hour at the bar. At our table, I ordered the Yamazaki sidecar, preferring it over the other sweet-sounding cocktails.
Both Ali and AK told our server I would be doing the ordering. I felt a bit rushed and let him badger me into ordering for us. I didn’t want to take too long with the extensive menu but the things he ordered for us wouldn’t have been anything I really would have ordered as I feel these dishes are found at many Japanese restaurants. I wanted something unique, something like that uni tempura which I inisted we wanted. We began with the yellowtail with chiles which was good, not at all spicy. I have had similar versions around town and this was very saucy.
Next was another familiar fusion-y sushi (sashimi) dish, the albacore with garlic chips. Also good, nothing spectacular. Just really good quality fish.
Very oddly, the Hearts of Palm salad came with tuna. There was no mention of such but our server said it would come that way. I did appreciate he seemingly made sure we were able to share all the dishes equally so far with two pieces of fish each.
Ah, finally we had something a bit different. The spicy tuna rice cakes, a familiar staple at LA sushi restaurants, came out DIY. First you pick up the skewered rice cake, dip it into the sauce and pile on the spicy tuna. Except it wasn’t spicy. This where we had 7 in an order so we insisted someone take the last piece.
Next up we handled our miso cod wraps and wagyu beef tacos like pros. Both were delectable.
At last the uni tempura arrive. But wait, there’s only one piece? But what are the three other pieces- shishito pepper, shitake mushroom and a single shiso leaf. Huh? When we asked our server, he said he could order us two more orders of it and tell them no veggies but it’d be the same price (so $11 X3, no thanks!). Not quite what we wanted. On the menu, it’s only listed as uni tempura. No mention it’s only one piece and certainly not with other veggies. I was a bit disappointed. Maybe it’s time to look at that recipe again and make our own.
At least the rock shrimp tempura had tons of rock shrimp. It was probably my favorite dish with warm mushrooms tucked into the salad. But still, nothing “different” or unusual about this dish.
I had a Pisco Sour while I thought about what to order. Our server had finished up all our dishes up to the tempura. I decided we should add a land protein to all our seafoody bits.
We ordered the duck breast with foie gras sauce. It was quite great. Something different and it gave a tinge of holiday flavor to our otherwise sedate meal.
I am not knocking Nobu at all. In fact, all the dishes I had that I felt were so familiar were probably borrowed by other chefs from Nobu. I suppose I should at least have a meal once from this master chef. I still wish for more uni tempura though!
Going by the online menu, this is what I probably would have ordered:
Nobu Style sashimi tacos with lobster (or maybe crab)
baby artichoke salad
octopus or scallop (or maybe uni!) tiradito
hamachi kama miso salt
fish and chips, Nobu style
Or we could have gone all omakase on them. There are $100 or $150 options.