Kobo Nobu (Broadview / Danforth) - who's been?
Thinking about trying Kobo Nobu this weekend, but haven't found much online in the way of reviews (despite the chef's pedigree). Any info about this place would be appreciated.
I have been a fan of Tamaru san's cooking for a long long time. Having followed him from kitchen to kitchen, which included The Fifth, JOV Bistro, Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, Simple Bistro and Left Bank to name a few. At top of his game, he was regularly regarded as one of Toronto's best French Cuisine chef, easily rivaling iconic chefs the likes of Didier or Marc Thuet!
I was super excited to hear that Chef Tamaru has recently opened up a small cozy place mid town which offers a French/Japanese fusion Omakase menu. Tonight, braving the cold! Ha! I made a special trip from way up north to visit this favorite chef of mine.
The place was small with confusing 'weird' rustic decor that included wooden I-Beams traversing the ceiling, Bamboo plants placed next to hanging art-deco lamps.... and Oh! a couple of house cured whole leg of Prosciutto hanging on the wall. Weird indeed for a Japanese eatery!
We had the $45 Chef's Omakase menu which was requested a couple of days in advance. Our 4 course meal included the following:
- Braised Mennonite Pork Belly in Dashi broth.
- Grilled crispy Sardines salad
- Medley of seafood and grilled vegetables that included Miso Black Cod, Crispy Skin Red Snapper and butter grilled giant BC prawns.
- Home made Apple and Japanese Yam pie with Chocolate/Black Sesame ice cream.
First off, I have to give a thousand 'wows' to that piece of amazingly delicious broiled Miso Black Cod. Perfectly marinated and cooked, it was, IMHO, even better than Nobu Matsuhisa's famous version!! The dollops of miso paste on top was mind blogging good!
The smoky aroma and taste of the butter grilled prawns was also mesmerizingly inviting, especially the crunchy head!. Pity they only offer us a single one, because I could easily eat a handful!
The Sardine that goes with the salad was almost as enjoyable. Crispy outside and moist inside it was kicked up a few notches with an incredibly tasty honey mustard miso paste topping. They should bottle and sell this product and make a fortune!
Those two pieces of Mennonite pork belly easily bested Momofuku's version! Melt in the mouth tender with foie gras like textured fatty part, the tasty dashi broth was a brilliant 'grease-cutting' component.
The apple pie was good but nothing overly special. However, the same cannot be said about that great tasting ice-cream. The combination of dark chocolate with black sesame was a mastery touch! So good!
Overall, the meal was most enjoyable. My only criticism was an in-balance feeling caused by the lacking of any carbohydrates in all the savory dishes. A small bowl of Soba noodles to finish off the meal would be most ideal!
Service was friendly but extremely slow. At times one of the chef/owner has to come out of the kitchen to lend a helping hand. I hate to imagine what a busy Saturday night will be like?!
Thought I would give this a try. I went alone at around 6:30, I was the only customer. The "Kobo Nobu Tasting" on the menu seems like a good deal at $28 to try out a range of their food. So I asked the server, who is pleasant but not fluent in English, what it comes with. He said it's just a soup, a pork dish, and dessert. So it's really just a dinner set, not a tasting menu that I think of. OK, so I ordered a la carte. Being my first visit, I picked from the chef recommended items on the menu. The 3 items I chose were Kara-age (fried chicken), Shabu-shabu pork on green leaf and scallion, and lobster gyoza dumpling. The shabu-shabu, as I clarified with the waiter, is not a hot pot that I think of, but a cold salad. So I asked the waiter to bring the cold dish shabu-shabu first, then the lobster dumpling, and finish with the kara-age friend chicken.
The first dish brought out was the fried chicken. I repeated to the waiter the order I'd like the dishes to be served. He seemed taken aback, but after confirming what I said he politely took the chicken dish away. Moments later came the pork salad. Quite big, not bad value at $7.50. A typical Japanese citrus dressing. Seems the pork in slices were cooked shabu-shabu style, hence the item name? Pretty nice dish. Next came the lobster gyoza. 4 pieces only. Somewhat larger than most gyozas, but still. I struggled to understand how this dish can be marked chef recommended. Despite trying, I can't taste a trace of lobster. At $8.50, not good. (I actually would prefer the common 6-piece pork gyoza at around $5.) Last came the fried chicken. Somewhat generous portion at $7. Very nicely fried, good texture, batter, and mayo dip. Not too bad.
Miscellaneous notes ... there was no small dish provided to rest my chopsticks, so I had to place them on my napkin. Every time I used my napkin, I had to hold the chopsticks with my other hand. Despite being one waiter serving one customer, I needed to ask for water refill once. No drinks menu was provided, nor was there dessert menu, but I know they do serve dessert and have a large bar. The food menu is a bit confusing as it is in four sections: veg, meat, seafood, ramen. Within each section is mixed with cold appetizers as well as warm savoury dishes in seemingly random order. So to arrange dish progression for a meal, you need to jump from section to section and do some mental planning. None of these were biggies to me.
In the end, I find the food OK overall. (I do wonder if the restaurant was full and more alive if I would have experienced the food differently?) Prices of the dishes were low, but they were small plates so I needed 3 plates for a dinner, so I wouldn't say this is a value place. The ambience was so dead. As I left, there was another single customer came in. I can't see bringing friends here for another visit. I think the chef has some talent. But the other elements needed for a good dining experience can use an upgrade.
Best chicken karaage I've had anywhere! Also, burdock salad was an unexpected treat. I ate there soon after they opened, in early summer. They weren't totally organized and many items on the menu were unavailable. The service was a bit over-eager. But all in all, a good experience. I plan to go back again soon.
Really enjoyed our dinner here tonight! Had the four-course omakase, with a couple extras since the dishes were small. The service was very good, and we were offered drinks, though we didn't get many explanations of the food. (And our chopstick holders were adorable little pottery fish, kind of like small mudskippers...)
We started with smoked Arctic char with fresh greens and sesame. The dish was delicious if somewhat too cold.
Second course was Angus beef, miso eggplant, charred okra, charred enoki mushrooms, and some burning-hot harissa on grated daikon. Everything was delicious, especially the eggplant. Some thin baguette crisps with olive oil appeared around then as well.
Third was charred black cod, marinated in sake lees and miso, with a frothy lemon-egg sauce; as well as slices of pork (chop/rib?) with lemon, and an amazing risotto-like side with pancetta, edamame, enoki and another mushroom, and a wonderful buttery sauce. That risotto was something else - still thinking about it.
We weren't quite ready for dessert so also ordered the saba kara-age and the ramen. The saba was cold, sort of like Danish fried-and-then-pickled herring, and came with pickled beet, onion and carrot, soaking up a vinegar dressing. The flavours were good but the temperature didn't quite work for us; we would have preferred freshly fried fish with the cold pickles. (Also the whole dish was still fridge-cold.)
We were very impressed by the ramen noodles (gorgeous firm and chewy texture). The broth was nice (very rich, pork-y/bacon-y and not too salty) if not overly remarkable, the pork belly was lovely, and the garnishes included wakame, black fungus, scallions, sesame and sweet pickled ginger, which was unusual but fun. Would have it again for those noodles.
Dessert was a ?Bailey's mousse cake, all housemade. There was a tangy strawberry mousse on top of a firm chocolate cake-ish layer (couldn't pick out the Bailey's) on a shortbread crust, with mango sauce and blueberry compote. It was really good!! - and all parts were not too sweet.
We were the only people in the place and chef had no assistants, so not sure if the cold problems were just because of that. Other than that, we thought the dinner was very good. We're glad we went and are looking forward to going back and trying more things!