Most of the trendsetters who made Nobu famous have long since abandoned the brand, and so the crowd here is a mixed bag of tourists, boisterous American salarymen, and prosperous middle-aged couples with slightly dazed looks on their faces. The front banquettes are the choice places to sit, and if you find yourself penned under the low ceiling in the back of the room like I did one evening, the clamor of clattering plates and piped-in techno Muzak can be demoralizing. The desserts, by Gabriele Riva, provide some relief. I liked the spring rolls filled with melted chocolate and strips of tangy shiso leaf, and my bowl of sweet white peaches spiked with peanut crumble and a scoop of beer ice cream. The famous bento box (containing chocolate fondant cake) is as excellent as before, and so is a kind of New Age Meyer-lemon semifreddo scattered with candied nuts and cinnamon ice cream. This ingenious little dish tasted as original as something you might have encountered at Nobu ten years ago, and it brightened the faces of the Portland social workers, who finished it whole.
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Address:40 W. 57th St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-757-3000
Hours: Dinner, Monday through Thursday, 5:45 to 10:15 P.M. Friday and Saturday to 11:15 P.M.
Prices: Appetizers: $3 to $10. Entrées: $29 to $35.
Ideal meal: Toro tartare, king-crab tempura, Meyer-lemon semifreddo.
Note: If you like Kobe-style “Washu” beef, Nobu now serves several varieties, at $16 per ounce. If you can afford it, the best is the cool, gently seared tataki.