Top-of-the-Line Sushi at Nobu
Eartha Kitt in New York
Sixteen years ago, wet with winter sleet, we hailed a cab from the Royalton Hotel on 44th Street to Nobu, Chef Nobu Matushia’s flagship restaurant (with a Japanese-Peruvian sensibility) in Tribeca. In those days, food enthusiasts considered Nobu the gourmet temple for Manhattan’s preferred raw fish and rice dishes.
Nobu was a mecca for celebrities and the well-heeled before it became a tourist destination. The restaurant was co-owned by Nobu, uber restaurateur Drew Nieporent and Robert De Niro in those heady days before 9/11.The dining room paid homage to the Japanese countryside with birch trees, hardwood floors, and a wall of river stones.The sushi maintains a high level of quality, however, and the black cod with miso is still one of the most luxurious taste experiences in New York. — Ruth Reichl The sushi maintains a high level of quality, however, and the black cod with miso is still one of the most luxurious taste experiences in New York. — Ruth Reichl Like a mariner lured by the songs of a siren my dining companion and I were drawn to the magnificent raw bar featuring delicate fish and outstanding sushi and sashimi.
We put ourselves in the hands of the Itamae (sushi chef) and ordered the omakase, a multi-course tasting menu (which literally means trust me); giving him carte blanche to serve variations of the highest-quality fresh market catch.His preparation was thoughtful and exact. The sushi was presented while the rice was still warm, which we were told was crucial. The sushi courses were offered in a precise order, and prepared only seconds before we were served. Everything came at the correct temperature, at the perfect time. The unforgettable flavours had depth and were immaculate and pristine in both their flavour and presentation.
The Itame performed theatrical feats with the beveled edge of his knife and skillfully prepared each minimalist offering with diverse accompaniments, toppings and condiments. We used our fingers so as not to injure the meticulously crafted offerings. Encouraging our requests and questions was all part of the Itamae’s subtle, unexpected cultural courtesies and personal attention. Each succulent, luxurious morsel that he proffered was a different sensation.
After a multi-course dinner, we made our way uptown by limousine to the Café Carlyle where Eartha Kitt was performing her legendary cabaret act. She was at the top of her game and announced that she had recently been notified that her birth certificate had been located.
Eartha was celebrating her 70th birthday that night. In appreciation of our enthusiastic sake-fueled response, she singled us out to sit at her table at the front of the stage. Eartha belted out a performance rife with sexual innuendo and coquettishness. Yet, everything about Eartha Kitt and the Café Carlyle spoke class and urban sophistication.
Over the years, I had come to think of this as a perfect meal and evening. It was like something out of a film – someone else’s splendid life.