Not everything in Silicon Valley is about the newest. There’s the Rosewood Hotel, maintaining a majestic overview of Sand Hill Road for 10 years now. And Stanford University, over a hundred years old, still sits serene in the morning sunshine at the end of its mile-long palm tree drive.
And then there’s Nobu Palo Alto. They’ve stuck with the classics that we all know from its Peruvian-Japanese fusion food. But like all well-run places, they also know when to update.
At the moment, the restaurant building is different from many of the other Nobu restaurants. Until the new two-storey restaurant is opened, there’s a ground floor lounge-style restaurant. It’s intimate with only around 50 covers, and the doors open to the street.
The space has a more relaxed, less performative, feel.
The crowd on the evening that Lusso visited was also different from other hard-driving capital cities. Nobu Palo Alto isn’t far from Sand Hill Road, so it has its shaved head, chino-wearing VCs. And more interesting, it’s not far from Stanford, either, so there were a couple of tables of parents visiting their scholarly children. The parents dressed up. The children looked like they’d just woken up.
(And between scholarly tables, there were also class distinctions. One table looked like first-time University family: Dad was smartly dressed but had obviously worked hard, and with his hands, all his life. His pride was manifested in good humour and careful listening. The, there was a more established middle-class family, with a dad whose way of appreciating their children was to bombard them with intellectual challenges and unanswerable questions.)
Nobu has always been for the human safari as well as the food. That’s not changed.
And on the recently updated menu, many of the classics have been kept. They’re corralled on the left-hand side of the menu, helpfully titled ‘Nobu Classic’. There’s the carefully laid out thin, thin, thin slices of yellowtail sashimi jalapeño with a citrus yuzu sauce harmonising with the spicy heat.
One of chef-owner Matsuhisa’s favourite dishes, the New Style sashimi, is about twenty years old, but still works with its combination of bite-resistant rawness and mouth-feel seated oiliness.
There’s still the famous black cod, marinated in miso to give a mix of that cod earthiness and almost sickly sweetness.
But Nobu has innovated as well. Over on the right, on the ‘Nobu Now’ side of the menu there’s a new style Toro, a just spicy-enough tuna ginger in Tosazu vinegar ( it’s a rice vinegar base with a milder acidity that some ‘dressings’). A rock shrimp ceviche is small, delightful, just right.
Also in the ‘Now’ section are crispy brussels sprouts – which for someone who’s dodged them at every Christmas lunch, is very funny. And dodged once again.
There are sashimi tacos with either tuna, lobster, vegetable (why not more definition? You wouldn’t serve a beef taco with the description ‘meat’) or wagyu, which are all good for sharing, if you’re feeling that generous.
One dish soon to be making its way across to the left-hand side of the menu, is the pan-seared scallops in jalapeno salsa. The chewiness and sweetness of the scallops resisting the light spice attack of the jalapeño.
There are more innovations on way when the new, probably more-formal restaurant opens along with a new Nobu hotel above.
Nobu room service? Now that’s a future classic.