Nobu Melbourne, Crown Melbourne, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

I admit that I don’t generally choose to dine at Crown unless I have visitors, the Yarra being the closest thing Melbourne gets to a glamourous harbour view. In my mind, all that shiny sleekness lacks personality – the strip just feels like a series of faceless, corporate expense account-style restaurants.

Which just goes to show that sometimes I can be really narrow-minded about my eating. Lunch at the Melbourne branch of the Japanese celeb restaurant Nobu (it’s part owned by Robert de Niro) turned out to be an experience where the worldwide hype was deserved.

The menu was quite extensive so for ease we all decided to try the Bento Box ($42) as it included Nobu’s signature dish, the black cod with miso. What arrived were two large containers holding a myriad of flavours, textures and colours. To wit: a salad topped with a few slices of fresh salmon sashimi and dressed with a Matsuhisa dressing (which tasted like the soup packet mixture you get in instant ramen); a generous pile of baby tiger prawns covered in a light coating of tempura batter and with a tart ponzu sauce; a small slice of the famed black cod with miso – very fresh fish cooked simply; oshitashi (spinach with roasted sesame seeds); a spicy vegetable stir-fry with rice; a colourful assortment of sushi; miso soup; and freshly ground wasabi. The spread was quite incredible and for a while, conversation came to a standstill as everyone devoured their different dishes, the eating punctuated only by the occasional ‘whoa!’ as the sharp wasabi hit the sinuses.

In addition, the service was warm and friendly and Melbourne pulled out a bright sunshiny day for our relaxing riverside meal. So I take it back – Crown can pull off good food in a high-class setting and Nobu is definitely worth a revisit.

For more Japanese fine dining, try Tempura Hajime and Shoya.

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