Happy NOBU-rthday!

nobu_logo004.jpgJust the name “NOBU” conjures up ideas of elegance and exclusivity. Nobu has been on my list of “must try” places forever, but I never quite got around to it. Why was Nobu on my must try list? well, it’s so famous it must be good… right? Scott came to the rescue and sweetly offered to take me to Nobu Next Door for my birthday. I knew turning 26 would have it’s perks!

Nobu_BottlesNobu Next Store doesn’t take reservations, so Scott and I arrived early and we had no trouble getting a seat. As is usual for us, Scott dove into the food menu and I focus only on the sake menu. The sake list at Nobu Next Door was small, and I was surprised to see all the sake provided by only one brewery: Hokusetsu. A little research into this brewery and this is what I’ve found out…. Located on Sade Island in Niigata Prefecture, Hokusetsu has brokered an exclusive US distribution relationship with Nobu. Hokusetsu also produces “Nobu” branded sake.

Here’s a peek at the Nobu Next Door sake menu:

Exclusively for Nobu in the United States

Hokusetsu Junmai ‘Nobu House Sake’
Masu 12.00 / Small 10.00 / Large 17.00 / Bamboo 21.00

Hokusetsu Onigoroshi
Masu 17.00 / Small 15.00 / Large 25.00 / Bamboo 30.00

Hokusetsu Daiginjo
Masu 18.00 / Small 16.00 / Large 26.00 / Bamboo 32.00

Hokusetsu Junmai Daiginjo
Masu 19.00 / Small 18.00 / Large 28.00 / Bamboo 35.00

Hokusetsu 10 Ten Year Old
Masu 28.00 / Small 26.00 / Large 40.00 / Bamboo 45.00

Hokusetsu YK50
Masu 30.00 / Small 28.00 / Large 42.00 / Bamboo 50.00

Hokusetsu YK35
Masu 32.00 / Small 30.00 / Large 55.00 / Bamboo 65.00

daigino_hokusetsu.jpgIn very upscale places, I love to rely on the recommendations of the waitstaff – they usually know their stuff and I always love to learn from the pros. Our waiter made me quite nervous, however, when I asked him how much sake came in the small Tokkuri and he told me matter-of-factly that is was 300 Millimeters. Um… I was on my own.

I ordered a Bamboo Tokkuri of the Hokusetsu Daiginjo (Niigata Prefecture, Seimaibuai 45%, ALC 15.8%, SMV +5, Acidity 1.3). Why not splurge! You only turn 29 once, right? I must admit, the presentation of this sake was very nice. A very large bamboo tokkuri about 12 inches tall arrived at the table along with two matching bamboo cups. the interesting thing was that the bamboo had been deep chilled and retained it’s cold temperature throughout dinner. The tokkuri itself was so large and heavy that it was difficult to pour with one hand. The bamboo cups were also deep chilled. I’m thinking that maybe the moisture in the bamboo is what retained the cold.

How did it taste? well, the Hokusetsu Daiginjo was floral to the point of show-off-iness. It really came at you with a vengeance… “I’m a Daiginjo, damn you! Nothing Junmai about me!” The poofy, floral nuances reminded me of a little girl’s puffy pink party dress. I think the constant chill from the bamboo kept the sake on track and consistent in taste. In general, the ornate daiginjo sake was an off beat match for the spicy japanese-peruvian fusion.

matt_damon2.jpgThe evening took an interesting turn when a commotion at the door caught my attention. Mr. Matt Damon with Wife and 6-month-old Baby had arrived and were seated about 12″ away from us. (Faithful readers will note, this is not Urban Sake’s first Star Sighting.) As I sipped away on my Hokusetsu Daiginjo, I tried hard to focus on MY special day, however, it’s a little bit difficult when management made such a fuss about the folks at the next table. Never before had I had a front row seat for this type of Star Treatment. The Damons received course after course which the waiter announced was “on the house” or “compliments of the Chef”. Their very cute baby was fawned over by the manager and the host rushed over repeatedly from the front desk to pick up any toys the tot threw on the ground. ummm.

Well, I still managed to feel special on my Birthday. I mean you don’t turn 32 just any old year! Even if the Nobu manager could care less, Scott was certainly treating me like I was a Matt Damon or Bennifer and that counts for an awful lot in my book!

When all was said and done, I was a little disappointed that Nobu had one, and only one, brand on sake on tap. However good it tasted, the greedy American in me couldn’t help but long for more selection. It’s like you go to a diner and all they sell is ginger ale… what about all those diet coke, Dr. Pepper and lemonade lovers?!

The wisdom I’ve gained now that I’m 35 years young? If spicy is not your thing and if your sake palate longs for something other than Hokusetsu, Hokusetsu or Hokusetsu, just this once, you may just have to say No to Nobu.

Photo of Nobu Next Store sake bottles by Flickr user Thomas Hawk licensed under Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0

Photo of Matt Damon by Flickr user -Crash- licensed under Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0