The Limitless Possibilities of Filipino Cuisine by the Pinoy Chefs of Nobu

Nobu New York collaboration with Nobu Manila Filipino-Japanese Food

Was among the privileged last night who partook of a special omakase dinner created and prepared by Nobu New York’s Chef de Cuisine Ricky Estrellado (proudly Pinoy) and Nobu Manila’s Chef de Cuisine Michael de Jesus (also proudly Pinoy).

Chef Ricky Estrellado (on the right in the photo above, dwarfing me and Chef Michael de Jesus) has been with Nobu New York for almost 10 years. He also oversees Nobu Next Door, which he helped open way back in 1998. He also helped open Nobu Las Vegas in 1999.

Because both chefs are Filipino, the theme for the evening was Filipino food but given a Nobu twist.

Unfortunately the dinner was for two nights only. But I am praying that Nobu will keep the menu, even for a couple of months. I strongly recommend that every chef who wants to learn about Filipino food try this menu! It just shows the limitless possibilities of how to execute Filipino cuisine. And while others massacre it with deconstructed versions and pairings that don’t really fly, this menu hits the nail on the head and the ball out of the park.

Sisig Foie Gras Gyoza Cone, Tuna Kinilaw tartar with Kizami Wasabi
Sisig Foie Gras Gyoza Cone, Tuna Kinilaw tartar with Kizami Wasabi

Dinner started with an impressive zensai (a bite-size snack appreciated over beer or sake): a combination of sisig and an eensy cube of foie gras. We were told to have it all in one bite, the surprise being the accent of the shiso leaf, whose slight bitterness very calculatedly broke the fatty flavors of the sisig and foie.

This was followed by the (recently overly-celebrated) kinilaw. I am still partial to Enting’s Kinilaw but this was pretty good. You can’t go wrong with great ingredients.

The next three dishes were the most impressive. The third dish presented the chef’s take on the traditional lumpiang ubod (fresh spring roll). The chefs replaced the spring roll wrapper with a light and fluffy crepe, giving it a very cosmopolitan look and feel. But what made me perk up were the small slices of Lapu Lapu on the side. This had a very smokey accent to it that was unforgettable.

Ubod Salad Lapu Lapu Shiso Crepe with Jalapeno & Matsuhisa Dressing by Nobu
Ubod Salad Lapu Lapu Shiso Crepe with Jalapeno & Matsuhisa Dressing

Next was yellowtail sashimi. It was unbelievably (believe it!) topped with bagoong (shrimp paste)!!! Yet it remained delicate and fresh. To counter the saltiness of the bagoong, another brilliant accent for balance: a Japanese mountain peach called Momokochan, usually used as a palate cleanser, was provided for a just whisper of sour (not a sour whisper!).

Nobu New York collaboration with Nobu Manila Filipino-Japanese FoodMy favorite dish of the night was this next one: a lobster sinigang! The chef used a spiny lobster, as opposed to a claw-y lobster, preferred for its light meat. And for the soup, the chef used tamarind. So it’s the Nobu version of sinampalukan. This is by far the best fancy sinigang I have ever tried!!

img_5417At this point our table of very candid diners started joking that Nobu is where you eat but need to go for another meal after because the servings are degustation-style. Boy did we eat our words because the next three dishes stuffed us silly!

Two hefty slabs of sous vide pork were served as Nobu’s version of “crispy pata“. Not as crisp as we know it to be but with fat that did stick to your teeth. This was paired with laing, the only pairing in the entire menu that I didn’t agree with – because a Filipino’s gut just needs rice with his crispy pata, hehe!

img_5387Next up was the chef’s version of Kare Kare. They used beef short ribs instead of oxtail and this lay on a bed of peanut sauce, as we know kare kare to be served. But for the Nobu twist, it also came with a cracker made of Peruvian chili sauce (anticucho), which you could easily mistake for bagoong. Nobu should put these in packs and sell them, haha.

Beef Short Ribs Kare Kare Anticucho by Nobu
Beef Short Ribs Kare Kare Anticucho

Then came our big karma: while we kept asking for rice, unbeknownst to us, we were in for a LOT of rice in the end — a Pinoy sushi platter!! Now the concept isn’t new. I have been to other restaurants that have “Filipinized” sushi. But none have captured it as they did at this omakase in Nobu.

The chefs presented Gen San tuna topped with gata (coconut milk). This was followed by Yellow Tail or Salay Salay with the delightful sourness of paksiw. Tachi-uo or belt fish was topped with salted egg. Mackarel or shima aji was cooked tinapa style. And there was even an adobo of dapa or flat fish. For fun, I think the chef also threw in something that reminded Anna Sobrepeña of suman (after which everyone gushed, “I loooove suman!!!”): garlic rice made crispy. Everything was executed excellently.

Nobu Filipino Sushi - Tuna Ginataan, Shima Aji Tinapa Style, Dapa Adobo, Salay Salay Paksiw, Tachiuo Cured Egg, Crispy Garlic Rice
Tuna Ginataan, Shima Aji Tinapa Style, Dapa Adobo, Salay Salay Paksiw, Tachiuo Cured Egg, Crispy Garlic Rice

Just before dessert, we were honored by the presence of (drumroll) The Sea Princess Tessa Prieto Valdes. Have been a fan of her column since it started and after maybe fifteen years now, it seems, I am amazed at how she continuous to dress so vivaciously. She never runs out of ideas and seems to never run out of energy! She caught up with the dinner after watching a ballet at the CCP. I needed to take this photo – hoping to send it to Elizabeth Banks (close kami! LOL) with the note, “Effie might like to get some ideas from Tessa.”

img_5379Part of my Tasting Notes – look at those lashes!!! ❤

img_5409For the finale, (sorry ang laki ng video below – I don’t know how to downsize it!!!) we were served this uber amazing Nobu version of the quintessential Filipino summer dessert, the Halo Halo. A good halo halo is distinguished by the quality of the shaved ice – which is why Razon’s is so popular, even if it does not have a lot of “sahog”. Nobu’s halo halo goes another level. First, they use coconut milk instead of water for the crushed ice, eliminating the need to pour in milk, and also using coconut milk instead of evaporated milk, so it’s not so heavy. The layer of ice is also really thick, camouflaging layer after layer of delight: ube gelato, yuzu gelatin, macha bits, beans. I dare say, this can give Milky Way a run for its money.

I REALLY HOPE AND PRAY that Nobu will consider extending this menu. It would be such a waste if, like a dream, this will just be in our memories. Also, I really want to have this halo halo again!!! 😉

Nobu Hotel, City of Dreams
Aseana Ave, Paranaque
Reservations recommended. 02 691 2882.
Major credit cards accepted.
Wheelchair accessible (but the walk from the hotel entrance to the restaurant is a bit of a distance).
Valet parking available.
8-course Omakase dinner P4,800++.

Nobu Hotel Manila: Zen in the City

Nobu Hotel, City of Dreams Manila. Design. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.

It’s true, what Paulo Coehlo said in The Alchemeist: “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.” I had just posted this rant on my Facebook page  …

Margaux Salcedo Facebook Post December 2014… a few days later I’m experiencing a fantastic staycation, checking out Nobu Hotel at the City of Dreams Manila.

Margaux Salcedo margauxlicious nobu manila view
View from the 8th floor of Nobu Manila

The City of Dreams will have its grand launch early next year yet but Nobu Hotel has opened and I was surprised to see quite a number of guests checking in already. The Philippine economy must be doing well, somehow!

5 Things About Nobu Hotel that left an impression on me:

1. The very zen yet hip designs at the lobby

The interiors are apparently by the Rockwell Group. No, not the Rockwell in Makati but the Rockwell Group that designed various Nobus around the world. Check out their designs of Nobu Caesars Palace here:

This tall girl  – actually they are all tall and become even taller with their four-inch heels – will greet you at the lobby.

margaux salcedo photo nobu manila lobbyBut what really caught my eye were these zen and spartan yet colorful and very hip lobby seats!

Margaux Salcedo Nobu Manila lobby 2. The very zen rooms

This bed is so soft I could sleep in all day. Although the effect may also be that I rested so well, I needed less sleep. I konked out at 11:00 pm after several glasses of wine but – I guess my body said I was already full batt and ready to face the day again – I was up by 6:00 am the next day!

Nobu Hotel Manila City of Dreams
I could marry this bed.

All the elements of the room reek of zen. Check out the spartan toilet. How about some yoga in the shower?

Nobu Hotel City of Dreams Manila Photo by Margaux Salcedo3. The fact that you can have breakfast at Nobu Restaurant

Rooms are now being offered at an introductory rate of P9,888 nett for two adults and one child in a deluxe room. This includes the breakfast buffet.

Of course they won’t be serving the Nobu a la carte menu but the breakfast buffet is a stunner in itself plus look at how pretty your breakfast surroundings will be:

Margaux Salcedo Nobu Manila interior designAnd you can order creations by Nobu Manila Executive Chef Zachary Hillberry like this green tea muffin or the smoked salmon on a rice cake.

margauxlicious nobu manila breakfast

Margaux Salcedo Nobu breakfast salmon4. Room Service

I confess: I had two breakfasts. My excuse is that I woke up so early. But the early bird truly gets the worm. As I got to order in and have an amazing Nobu-fied Tapsilog. Nobu got the fave Pinoy breakfast tapsilog and used instead Wagyu beef and quail eggs and added some seaweed. It’s sooo expensive but also really good.

Margaux Salcedo Nobu Manila Tapsilog5. The Spa

They have the most gorgeous spa.

Margaux Salcedo Nobu Manila Spa Margaux Salcedo Nobu Spa bedEverything has been well thought out. Down to what you would be staring at when you are facing down.

Margaux Salcedo Nobu Manila Spa 3If you just want to escape from the hustle and bustle of Manila for a day without actually getting away, this is the solution for you.

Nobu Hotel at the City of Dreams
Asean Avenue corner Roxas Boulevard
(go to Macapagal Avenue and turn left at City of Dreams)
Telephone:+632 800 8080
Fax:+632 890 8080