When I was at University of Oregon my freshman year, I lived in a dorm with a bunch of gals. A group of us became steadfast friends, all of us from different walks of life, different backgrounds, different ethnicities. Decades later, with the help of Facebook, we reconnected and last year, planned a reunion of epic proportions. It took 10 months to plan with people traveling as far away as Hawaii and Michigan.
A couple of weekends ago, we converged in Las Vegas and I can truly say, this was the first time that slogan “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” rang true. We did a lot in three and a half days, often reverting back to our teenage years. Although we had a bunch of meals while we were there, it was our meal at Nobu on our last night which resonated the most.
We were celebrating a birthday at the original Nobu at Hard Rock Hotel (there’s another at Caesar’s Palace). It turned out to be an excellent choice because the birthday girl is mostly pescatarian and another, vegetarian. We all decided to order mostly vegetarian dishes with only a select seafood items, foregoing red meat all together. We also left most of the ordering to the birthday girl.
Our server Dan was absolutely delightful. In fact, I think he reveled in the challenge of providing us with the best vegetarian suggestions for a perfect evening.
We started off with some non-alcoholic cocktails, although I do not remember the names since I didn’t order them. I shared some sake (Junmai large $32/Daiginjo large $40) with the birthday girl.
Dan started us off with Shishito Peppers ($12) while we perused the menu. The accompanying dipping sauce is sweet and savory.
Cucumber Sunomono ($10) is refreshing and light — the birthday girl eats this almost every meal — and although it is such a simple dish to make, often, the flavors aren’t perfectly balanced. The one here is good with only a hint of sweetness and not overly tart — just enough to tantalize the tastebuds.
I’m not a salad fan, but Field Greens ($12) was very tasty with a really flavorful citrus and sesame dressing. Apart from that, it was just a salad.
One of our favorites was Crispy Sprouts ($20). The flavors were addicting and I wanted to soak up the remaining dressing with some steamed rice. It was salty, tart and a must-order. I would have liked the Brussels sprouts to be a little crispier but overall, a stellar offering.
I’m a huge fan of eggplant, so obviously, I had to order Eggplant Miso ($12). Tender and nicely charred, the miso glaze is not overpowering and enhances the eggplant well.
I ordered the special of the night: Shirayaki ($30), eel in a ponzu sauce with aji amarillo. It was too spicy for some, but I absolutely loved it. Beautifully presented, its subtle complexities lie in the perfect amalgamation of each ingredient to create the perfect mouthful.
I was intrigued by Uni Tempura ($16/pc) so my BFF and I ordered one each. The plate arrives with two pieces of lightly battered uni, as well as shiso leaf and shiitake mushrooms. I was afraid that the uni might be lost underneath the batter, but it was good but not exceptional. The uni was not cooked, retaining its unctuous texture, but I’ll have to admit, some of the umami was definitely masked by the batter.
Vegetable Taco ($10) was enjoyed by our vegetarian friend. They were two bite-sized “tacos” on fried gyoza wrappers topped with an array of vegetables including red peppers, mushrooms and zucchini.
I believe everyone’s favorite dish was Hearts of Palm Pasta ($22). A bit deceiving, there isn’t actually any pasta in the dish, but instead, the hearts of palm are julienned into “pasta”. Shaved asparagus adds color and contrast. This blew everyone away. Everything from the textures and flavors impressed us. This is a must-order when you visit Nobu.
Of course, I had to order another protein. Umami Sea Bass ($45) was flaky and moist. Even though I enjoyed it, I didn’t think it warranted the price tag.
Surprisingly, we were rather full by now, but I can’t resist trying the special Strawberry Panna Cotta ($13). It was absolutely perfect!
Our birthday girl was presented with Bento Box ($14) a chocolate flourless cake with an oozing center, accompanied by a scoop of green tea ice cream.
Nobu offers fine dining in a casual environment. You can walk in pretty much dressed in jeans and t-shirt, but the service and quality of dishes, as well as pricing, reflect a fine dining experience. However, what I’ve realized is, if you’re looking for an exceptional vegetarian meal, this is the place to go!
Nobu at Hard Rock Hotel
4455 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89169