Nobu Hard Rock
White Fish Tiradito Nobu Style with Lemon, Peruvian Chili Paste, Soy
Salmon New Style Sashimi with Ponzu, White Sesame, Tomato, Scallion
King Crab Sashimi Taco with Spicy Cream and Garlic Chip / Tuna Sashimi Taco with Avocado Cream
Rock Shrimp Tempura Creamy Spicy
Dry Miso Sea Bass with Ginger
Cut California Roll / Albacore Nigiri / Fluke Nigiri
Bento Box with Chocolate Fondant Cake, Imperial Matcha Gelato, Berries
Not about to question the historical significance of Nobuyuki Matsuhisa or Nobu Restaurant’s role in popularizing Sushi across the globe it was with some trepidation and also wonder about how the concept had aged that dinner was booked Saturday evening inside The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the answer precisely as expected and whether that is a “good” or bad thing difficult to unravel.
A “best new Restaurant” winner in 1995 and now with a worldwide empire including hotels such as the boutique piece of Caesars’ and its first floor eatery, it was in 2007 that Nobu TriBeCa was first experienced, memories undoubtedly faded since but the overall theme recalled to be disinterested service and high prices for not much Food and a look at the current menu shows the latter to have only grown more ridiculous, $20 for two King Crab Tacos compared to $18 for three topped with Lobster in the past but one example.
Allowing for inflation but hoping service would perhaps show the level of care Las Vegas has proven capable of in other Celebrity Chef offshoots, personal support of The Hard Rock and its eateries as frequently being far better than most give them credit for aside, it was after navigating a floor of folks in town for Psychofest that the Restaurant was located and reservations confirmed, the fact that the room was completely full not entirely surprising though the range of patrons from dolled-up bachelorettes to guys with well over fifty visible tattoos was certainly interesting.
Predictably employing a pretty staff to work below moody-lighting and thumping bass, Nobu’s look always photogenic even in the days before Instagram, it was after passing on the bottled water and Sake up-sell that the server inquired whether guests were interested in seeing the menu or allowing for Chef’s Choice, a “variety of price points” ranging from $80 to $200 described and $100 settled on as a number though this certainly is not Omakase.
Truly an odd manner of ordering, the Chefs entirely removed from the decision making and this tasting instead crafted by a server who simply chooses items a la carte and builds a running tally of which guests are reminded as though participating some sort of monetary ‘race,’ it was with nine thin slices of slightly snappy White Fish for $25 that dinner got started, a touch of Aji Pepper adding heat but the Fish’s quality likely no better than what one might find at a place advertising “All you can eat.”
Next presenting an equal portion of Salmon at the same price per slice, the aforementioned “race” sure to be a sprint instead of marathon, it seems Nobu’s idea of “New” still inhabits an era pre-Millennium as a flood of Ponzu and Sesame plus one peeled Tomato hardly looks novel while thoroughly obscuring the fish’s flavor, the aforementioned Tacos offered next at least showcasing their ingredients, though considering the $9-10 per bite cost one would be better off simply adding more Nigiri, albeit only slightly.
Dropping a $28 bowl of lightly heated Rock Shrimp Tempura next, the Crustaceans themselves at best U-30 and in no way superior to those found on the A.Y.C.E. Buffet at The Palms, it was from a young female server supporting a large Lobster dish in her other hand that Nobu’s famous Miso Sea Bass was soon ‘presented,’ little more than “eat the Ginger last to cleanse the palate” stated as she scampered off and the $40 filet with a $2 surcharge for “Dry Miso Style” still quite good but certainly not as special as when it debuted nearly twenty-five years ago.
Adding insult to injury with a $12 California Roll and Nigiri featuring over-sweetened and mushy Rice below $6 slices of average Albacore and Fluke, it was finally copping Michel Bras’ 1981 recipe for “Lava Cake” that dinner came to an end, the Chocolate undoubtedly of good quality as was the bitter-sweet Gelato but the $260 tab more a reminder of precisely why Nobu is rich than a justifiable expense to sit in a “cool” place eating below-average Food.
ONE AND A HALF STARS: No doubt making a mistake in ordering pseudo-Chef’s Choice, a server barely old enough to drink and his staff of runners who could care less about things like empty water glasses or lingering dirty plates hardly someone to trust as there is no monetary “value” in the Tasting versus ordering a la carte, one must thank Chef Matsuhisa for his contributions and ability to both build and maintain an empire, though for discerning diners there is nothing to see here and there has not been for years.
RECOMMENDED: Ordering a la Carte and trying the Miso Sea Bass based on its historical relevance.
AVOID: Any sort of tasting unless sitting at the Sushi Bar and communicating directly with the Chef.
TIP: Rumor has it that this location will shutter once their twenty years of free-rent expires, though for those interested it seems fairly likely an identical experience will still be available at Caesars’ both tomorrow and a decade from now.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.