‘Kanpai’ to Nobu’s Bento Box

At R195 the seven-course Bento Box is a great excuse to treat your taste buds to a meal at Nobu

Enter Nobu. At the small bar, a couple of Europeans are drinking fine Japanese whiskeys, plum wine and Sake cocktails. The drinks menu features only Japanese beers such as Asahi and Sapporo and there’s a selection of high end French wines including Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne, from Champagne in France, of course.  Oh wait, I spot a Quoin Rock Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa... and remember that, yes, we’re still in Cape Town, at the One & Only, that is.

First class service is immediately obvious as Victor the barman introduces a wide range of imported drinks and recommends a couple of options. As I slowly sip my Saketini, a cocktail mix of Grey Goose Vodka, Hakusetsu Sake, Takara Plum Wine, Cointreau, cranberry juice and a tiny Yamamomo peach, it feels like I could just as well be sitting at a restaurant bar in New York, London or Tokyo.

Edamame, origami lights and white orchids

A bar snack of edamame (steamed and salted soya beans) quickly sets the tone for dinner and our French host shows my partner and I down a flight of fan like stairs to our table. Adding to the soft light throughout is origami lights that consist of small prisms and stretches out across the ceiling. At the far end of the room the sushi counter is showcased in bright lights and some white orchids catch the corner of my eye.

“Ira-shai-ma-se,” the sushi chefs shout in our direction.

It means “Welcome to our home” in Japanese.

Even as we slide into the bench seats we already know what we’re having - and it’s not on the menu just yet. Although the menu does reveal some indulgent options such as lobster and scallop tacos, Wagyu beef (valued for its marbling characteristics and intense flavour) as well as soft shell crab. Nobu has just introduced the Bento Box to its Cape Town offering and at R195 it offers seven courses for R100 less than its London counterpart which goes for ₤25. No wonder foodies jump at the opportunity to sample a Nobu meal in Cape Town.  The restaurant is half full on this Monday night and there’s even a family with three children dining here.

Our sake (Hakusetsu, which is made exclusively for Nobu by a friend) arrives in a carved frozen bamboo carafe with two bamboo cups. Soon after large lacquered Bento boxes are perfectly placed in front of the chopstick setting on the table. The box consists of two different containers. Each container has three sections which individually hold each of the six courses. The seventh is dessert, which arrives in its own serving dish after the meal.

The best of Nobu in one Bento Box

Waitress Maylene explains the courses, which are standard except that the types of fish and sushi might change. The three hot dishes are closest to us: steamed rice and mixed vegetables in a garlic chilli sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds; Halibut fish in a sweet denmiso sauce and a pickled ginger stick (both my partner and I voted this as the favourite part of the meal); tiger shrimp tempura prepared rock shrimp style with a ponzu sauce featuring the tang of citrus and rice vinegar.

Then the cold dishes: Seared tuna sashimi salad with a soya, onion and sesame oil based masuhisa dressing; spicy tuna cut rolls with scallop and mackerel nigiri (all small enough to hold in your mouth elegantly); mixed sautéed seafood cerviche with octopus, tuna and white fish topped with a Peruvian chilli sauce.

By the time the hot food found a happy place in my stomach I am satisfied but the careful selection of flavours and lightness of the cold salads and sushi is a delight that almost completes the meal.  Yet the best is still to come. Dessert arrives in a small lacquered box which reveals a tiny slice of malva pudding with vanilla sauce, berries, a crunchy caramelised mini sesame stick and a small serving of pineapple calpas (Japanese yoghurt) ice cream - which turns out to be even better than the gelato that so awed me in Rome.

By Lize de Kock

For more about Cape Town’s abundant offering of fantastic restaurants, visit our Eating Out section.

 

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