By Mimi Kmet
As I prepared to embark on a luxury cruise aboard Crystal Symphony in May, I was looking forward to dining at Silk Road & The Sushi Bar. That’s the onboard Japanese restaurant by internationally acclaimed Chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa. My eagerness grew when I learned I would accompany Nobu-trained Chef Hiroshi Nakaguchi (Naka), Crystal’s corporate executive chef for Silk Road & The Sushi Bar, in Seattle during a port call to buy fresh fish for the evening’s dinner.
Chef Naka — who opened Nobu restaurants in New York City, Las Vegas and Miami Beach, as well as Silk Road on Crystal Serenity when he joined Crystal in 2003 — is responsible for quality control in both ships’ Silk Road & The Sushi Bar restaurants. He usually sails on Crystal Symphony for one or two cruises each year and, this year, that included the Pacific Coast cruise I had booked.
Crystal orders most provisions prior to a voyage and ensures the freshest ingredients are secured. I could taste the freshness at every meal on board. But, if a chef can hand-pick some ingredients in port to prepare and serve as part of the evening’s menu, that’s all the better.
We walked to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, arriving at 8 a.m. The fishmongers had just finished setting out the day’s fresh catch, so Chef Naka had first pick of the bounty. He carefully scrutinized the seafood that was displayed on top of mounds of crushed ice and in cold display cases before making his choices. When he picked out his first fish, the fishmonger performed the market’s customary — and entertaining — ritual of tossing it to a coworker, who then fileted it, weighed it and wrapped it up.
When Chef Naka was done selecting fish, we walked back to the ship with mackerel, snapper, oysters, and large and small scallops in hand. And cherries. (Pike Place Market also has fresh produce stalls; we sampled the red cherries, and they were delicious.)
That evening, my companion Mara and I dined at Silk Road. Chef Naka came out from behind the sushi bar to greet us and serve us our first of several courses: sashimi carved from the fish he bought at Pike Place Market. Those scallops? They were served individually, topped with caviar. Course after course was brought to our table. We tasted everything Chef Naka bought and feasted on other fare from the menu, like mushroom soup served in Japanese tea kettles; Nobu-style seafood tacos; and lobster tail with asparagus and wild rice. Everything was fresh, as if he had bought all of it that day.
And just when we thought we’d had our last course, Chef Naka presented us with some of those fresh, ripe cherries — a fitting conclusion.
(Featured image: Chef Naka shops for fresh fish at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, Photo by Mimi Kmet)