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Dubai: Dinner at Nobu – Was it worth the money?

Nobu, Dubai

It was my birthday in December but I was jetlag-struck so even thinking about planning a party made me dizzy. Instead, Poul and I decided to go for a quiet dinner at Nobu at Atlantis The Palm. I’ve wanted to try Nobu for a very long time, but after a couple of discouraging reports from friends, who had dined there, my enthusiasm declined and Nobu passed into oblivion. That is, until it suddenly was my birthday, and we were in need of a nice restaurant that we hadn’t tried before.

The primary complaint from people I know has been that while the price tag is definitely 5-star, the settings are a no-star experience. My first impression of Nobu was also more of a cafeteria than of a fancy Japanese restaurant. The tables were standing much too close and the décor reminded me of what you’ll find at most Vegas buffets. Nice enough, but not what you would expect at a place, where mains are in the +200AED range.

Our table was in the corner of the room, but we never sat down. Instead I asked if there were other tables available, because if not, then we would find another place to eat. The hostess told us that she would check if any of the outdoor tables were available, and fortunately they could accommodate us on the patio outside. This was a completely different experience and the rest of the evening was perfect.

Instead of ordering a la carte, the waiter suggested that we told him what we liked and how much money we were willing to spend, and then the kitchen would then put together something, which suited both our taste buds and our wallet. We told him to aim for around 500AED per head, and that we would love to try the miso cod, but otherwise, we didn’t have any requirements.

What we ate at Nobu:

First out was the Salmon Dry Miso New Style, which was slices of raw salmon marinated in a dressing, that makes the fish appear slightly cooked, like the fish in a ceviche. It was one of those nice dishes that doesn’t hurt anyone, but also doesn’t leave much of an impression.

The second dish was the lobster and spinach salad. Lobster and spinach, how wild can it get? You can’t really go wrong with it, but can you make something excellent that makes people go WOW? According to Poul, you can. This was his favorite dish of the evening.

Then came the rock shrimp tempura, which at first glance seems very similar to the dynamite shrimp at P.F. Chang’s. The concept (battered, deep fried shrimp tossed in a yummy sauce) is the same, but there’s definitely a difference in the quality of the ingredients used. Whether the difference fully motivates the price gap at the two venues is another question. I liked it a lot.

The miso black cod was of course the grand finale and it was just as good as you’ve heard it is. This is one of those dishes worth climbing a mountain for. Or, let’s say cross an ocean for instead, as I don’t really do mountain climbing, but I’m sure you get my point.

For dessert we had a baked cheesecake with yuzu sorbet. It was a nice way to end the meal, and the light yuzu sorbet was good at counterbalancing the very compact cheesecake.

We finished off with a selection of nigiri, and it was unquestionable among the best sushi I’ve had in Dubai, but everything sort of faded compared to the miso cod.

The two gentlemen, who served us that night were absolutely fabulous. There were only a few tables outside, so if they had been out there all the time, it would have been a bit awkward, but somehow they managed to always show up at all the right time. They were friendly and funny, and they definitely knew their stuff (I always ask questions, just to check :):))

Is Nobu worth the price?

Yes, if you get one of the outdoor tables. If you spend so much money on a meal, you don’t want to be squeezed inside a semi-ugly room with loud music and no soul, so if you can’t get a table outside, I’m afraid I’ll have to tell you that there are other places in the city, where you would rather be.

And a little rant..

When I called in to make the reservation, they asked me if we were celebrating something special and I mentioned that it was my birthday. Though during the evening, none of the staff members seemed to be aware about that. Don’t get me wrong. I always feel very uncomfortable, when staff start singing birthday songs or make me blow out a, nowadays, quite considerable number of candles, but there are other ways to acknowledge, that your guests are celebrating a special day. If you don’t want to use the information, why bother asking? Is a chocolate-written “Happy Birthday” greeting on the plate too much to ask for?

Nobu, Atlantis The Palm, Dubai

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