The inaugural chef’s table experience at Nobu KL was a lesson in food possibilities and deliciousness.
IMAGINE having a top chef whip up a specially curated menu, based on whatever your heart desires – wouldn’t that be something?
At the one-week only inaugural Chef’s Table at Nobu Kuala Lumpur, which featured Nobu Dubai’s chef de cuisine Herve Courtot, Malaysian diners were treated to a bountiful eight-course curated meal (priced at RM695++), the highlight of which was that they could tell the chef what they felt like eating, resulting in a hand-crafted, highly personalised experience.
Courtot, who is French, worked at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants in France before joining Nobu in 2008. He is the chef de cuisine of Nobu Dubai and the corporate chef of Nobu, responsible for the operations of Nobu franchises at Riyadh, Monte Carlo, Moscow, Cape Town, Doha, Marbella and Ibiza.
According to Courtot, the idea behind the chef’s table is to give diners the opportunity to meet and talk to the chefs and dictate exactly what they’d like on their menu for the day – likes and dislikes, allergies, preferences, predilections – everything is taken note of.
“Basically, we speak to the customer and see what they like, what they don’t like, if they are allergic to anything, and we build the menu around that. So it’s a more VIP service that we give to guests.
“I think now people like to know what they’re eating, where the product is coming from, and to meet the chef who is cooking behind the scenes. And it’s something fun – you can see the reactions of the customers when they eat – it’s fantastic!” says Courtot.
Courtot largely accepts any and all culinary challenges, although sometimes he does have to draw the line, as some requests may go against the basic tenets of what Nobu offers.
“From one table to the next, the menu can be different. I have customers who say ‘I like more raw fish or don’ t want any raw fish’ so we build the menu a la minute, so this is the fun part.
“Sometimes, guests will challenge you and say ‘I only want to have a dinner with lobster and beef.’ And we’ll try and do that. But if something goes against the Nobu philosophy or concept (like a guest who only wants bread), I will not do it,” he says.
Some of the highlights from the chef’s table were a couple of dishes that were specially brought in from Nobu Dubai, like the salmon tataki with black sesame dressing and jalapeno jelly, which featured perfectly cooked salmon juxtaposed against the sweetness of black sesame dressing and sticky jelly bits, which gave the whole dish a playful bounce.
Then there was the Chilean seabass with dashi ponzu and yuzu white chocolate, which Courtot came up with after working on a collaborative dinner in Dubai with renowned chocolate brand Valrhona. The fish was perfectly cooked and surrounded by a rich white chocolate moat which was sweet but not sickly so. It was the sort of dish that opened your eyes to the possibilities involved in sweet-savoury interplays.
The wagyu hobayaki with anticucho den miso was another eye-opener. The beef was cooked in an eucalyptus leaf, which imbued it with a light smokiness. The overall cooking of the meat was perfect – buttery soft and akin to pieces of satin gliding gracefully down the throat.
Courtot also worked his magic with Malaysian ingredients, incorporating fresh local yuba skin into his scallop yuba dish. The dish was a lesson in textures – the pillowy soft scallop couched inside crispy flash-fried yuba skin, which in turn led to a delightful sensory exploration.
“I was amazed! For me, fresh yuba is a new discovery, so when I came here and they said we have fresh yuba, I said, ‘What?’ I knew I needed to do something with that,” he says.
Given the popularity of some of the dishes from the chef’s table offerings, Courtot says there is a distinct possibility that some will be included permanently on the Nobu Kuala Lumpur menu.
“When you see the guests after their dinner, you can ask them ‘Which dish did you like?’ And for me, it is important that I do special dishes for them because if people keep saying, ‘I love this dish’, we can add it to the menu. So it’s direct feedback from the customer,” he says.
Given that the overall chef’s table concept stretches a chef’s imagination and forces them to think creatively and on the spot, does Courtot at all find it challenging and (secretly) a pain in the neck to come up with dishes that are totally dependent on diners’ sometimes fussy appetites?
Apparently not at all. “It’s fun. As chefs, we spend a lot of hours in the kitchen, so we need to have fun. If you don’t have fun cooking, you need to quit!” he says.
The buttery soft meat of the wagyu hobayaki cooked in eucalyptus leaf was truly revelatory. — Photos: YAP CHEE HONG/The Star
The Chilean seabass with dashi ponzu and yuzu white chocolate was a delightful flavour odyssey, the sweet and savoury melding in triumphant glory.
The discovery of fresh yuba skin inspired this dish of crispy flash-fried yuba skin with tender scallop inside.
The chef’s table experience at Nobu ‘is a more VIP service that we give to guests,’ explained Courtot, the chef de cuisine of Nobu Dubai.
The salmon tataki with black sesame dressing and jalapeno jelly offered bursts of bouncy jelly, sweet sesame and perfectly cooked fish.