By Don George
Japanese Chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa has swept the culinary world by storm since opening Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills in 1987, and then his first eponymous restaurant in New York in 1994. Today, he has 22 restaurants around the globe, from Beijing and Budapest to Melbourne and Mexico City. Known for his innovative fusion dishes that mix traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients, and for his exacting standards and meticulous obsession with quality, Nobu took his cuisine to the high seas in 2003, when he partnered with Crystal Cruises to open Silk Road and The Sushi Bar on Crystal Symphony. That location was so successful that, five years later, Silk Road and The Sushi Bar opened on the Crystal Serenity as well.
On a recent cruise aboard the Serenity, I had the glorious gustatory pleasure of dining with Nobu — well, with his signature culinary creations at least. Eager to sample as much as possible, my two companions and I ordered a virtual buffet of bounties. Our meal was highlighted by the mushroom soup (seasonal mushrooms cooked in their own broth and served in a Japanese tea kettle — exquisite!) and three renowned Nobu specialties — black cod with miso, lobster with truffle-yuzu sauce, and grilled wagyu beef rib eye steak — served with three sauces: anticuccho, teriyaki and wasabi pepper sauce. The yin-yang balance of flavors and textures in these three dishes was taste bud-tingling and mind-stretching, an intensive course in the art of culinary conception and creation.
When my companions left, I moved to a table near the sushi bar — as usual, there was a line of people waiting patiently to sit at the bar itself — to continue my sampling. I asked the ever-focused, ever-moving Chef Hiroshi Nakaguchi — known to all as Naka-san — to serve three of Nobu’s signature Sushi Bar creations: salmon tartar with sevruga caviar, tiradito scallop and white fish, and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño. Naka-san, Silk Road’s corporate executive chef, who recently celebrated his 10th anniversary with Crystal and is often described as Nobu’s right hand man, presented these with a flourish, along with tuna, yellowtail, and shrimp sushi. From the freshness of the fish to the delicate texture and flavoring of the rice to the flavorful accents of the jalapeño and the caviar, these were astoundingly delicious, as good as any sushi and sashimi I’ve had in three decades of raw fish feasting.
Diners worldwide routinely spend hundreds of dollars on Nobu’s delicacies, but passengers on Crystal’s ships can feast on Nobu’s acclaimed cuisine at no extra charge. (One specialty dining reservation per guest is free of charge on each cruise; additional reservations are on a space-available basis for a nominal fee of $30 per person, per dining experience.)
That’s one more delectable facet of the Crystal magic!