The arrival of famed Japanese restaurant Nobu in Kuala Lumpur has been spoken about in foodie circles for months. Rumours suggested the outlet, on the fifty-sixth floor of Petronas Tower 3, could be opened as early as August, and then the beginning of September.
But August and the start of September came and the official announcement was that a few construction delays had pushed back the launch. It didn’t deter customers though. In fact, Nobu’s special events manager Parvash Jafary explains that prospective diners have been on the phone to Nobu for weeks, if not months, and when the restaurant opens its doors this evening it will be to a packed dining room.
So what can the early samplers expect from a visit to KL’s most hotly-anticipated restaurant in 2014? Expatriate Lifestyle was at the soft launch on 24 September to find out.
The first thing you notice about Nobu is its size. Wrapping around the entire fifty-sixth floor, it offers amazingly close Twin Towers views from its bar area, intimate and large tables facing out over the KLCC park, and a relaxed lounge with more intriguing city scenery beyond floor-to-ceiling windows. The interior itself is left comparatively plain, matching warm hues with extensive teak furniture. This is functional design aimed simply at providing the right environment for high-level dining.
We arrived to canapés and cocktails at the bar, enjoying a signature Champagne 95 to accompany bites of tomato cerviche with quinoa, crispy rice with spicy tuna, and Matsuhisa (after the Nobu founder) prawns with caviar—all solid starters to get the taste buds going. This was just the beginning though, and after getting ourselves acquainted with the new surroundings we were ushered to our table for Chef Philip Leong’s omakase tasting menu.
The menu opened with a Nobu favourite: toro tartar with caviar. Most of the dishes at Nobu KL reflect those found at Nobu outlets around the world, and with key personnel at the KL restaurant having come in from other Nobus, the experience—from service to taste—is supposed to match the global reputation. The toro tartar certainly does. Wait staff patiently take diners through each element before leaving to eyes widening as guests enjoy the delicate tuna belly. As meal beginnings go, this was pretty impressive.
Next up was the salmon new style sashimi with unexpectedly thin slices of salmon sat on a bed of Japanese cucumber and topped with a warm sauce and sesame seeds. The presentation is far from traditional sashimi but the taste is signature Nobu—a Japanese base with added spice and pizzazz.
The sashimi is followed by more fish—this time tuna gently seared on the outside and served with an accompanying salad and Matsuhisa dressing. The sear gives the tuna an edge over the previous course, and the salad, coated but not drowned by the dressing, lightens what is otherwise an undeniably rich menu. It also sets us up for the evening’s highlight: umami sea bass.
Served simply with crisp skin and a charred half of baby corn, the meat flakes away at the merest of chopstick prods and has us wanting more and more. Alas, we’re allowed just one serving (good job, considering the extent of the omakase menu), but we’ll be back for more of this.
Following the sea bass was certainly the menu’s most room-diving dish: brick oven roasted poussin with anticucho sauce. The baby chicken came dark, charred and intense with an almost curry-like level of spice. Some said it was too hot, others that it was too salty, but most agreed that it would be better served in a smaller portion, perhaps with something to tame the peppery heat.
An assortment of Nobu sushi was next with highlights being the packed Nobu roll, the yellowtail and the tuna, but by this stage our eyes were on dessert: a cute bento box with light-as-air molten chocolate cake and a moreish green tea ice cream. Not all meals at Nobu will end with this dish, but you really should leave a little room for it.
And so the evening came to a close. Staff at Nobu KL have been working for months to get the finer details right and if our experience—and the reception Chef Philip received when he stepped out of the kitchen—are anything to go by, Nobu should be one of KL’s hottest tables for a long time to come.
For more information or to make a reservation, contact Nobu KL at 03–2164 5084 or www.noburestaurants.com/kuala-lumpur/
[Food photos shot by Henry Hargreaves. Outlet photos courtesy of Nobu Kuala Lumpur.]