When looking for a new and different dining concept, who better for Crystal Cruises to turn to than sushi mogul Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matshuisa? Now, just five years on, the two Crystal ships boast four Nobu-inspired and influenced restaurants between them.
|Sushi chef “Nobu” has four restaurants on Crystal Cruises ships|
Serious foodies will no doubt have been delighted last year when Crystal Cruises reaffirmed its partnership with world-class chef Nobu by opening two new on-board restaurants.
Following the success of Silk Road and The Sushi Bar that debuted onCrystal Serenity five years ago, sister ship Crystal Symphony now proudly boasts Nobu eateries of the same name. “Mr Takahashi, the chairman of Crystal Cruises’ parent company, NYK Logistics, is a customer and good friend of mine,” explains Nobu, “and he approached me in 2003 about introducing a sushi bar onto a cruise ship. I’d been on a Crystal cruise around Australia, a few years before, where I’d worked a couple of days doing cookery demonstrations and then spent the rest of the time relaxing, but that was the extent of my cruise ship experience.
“The first year was very difficult,” says Nobu, “as we didn’t really know how to operate on board, but we learnt a lot which made the second year easier than the first and now, five years on, we’re really well established. As much as possible we use fresh fish and fresh vegetables, which is very easy in the Mediterranean when the ship stops in port every day, but when there are three or four days at sea it is difficult and we do have to use frozen products. Fortunately, the freezing systems on board are excellent which means the quality isn’t affected.”
Nobu’s innovative culinary style combines Japanese flavours with elements of European and South American cuisine, and his numerous restaurants on land, as well as those at sea, all share a basic menu plus some ‘specials’ according to the local area. On board, The Sushi Bar offers an assortment of Nobu’s signature sushi and sashimi, while Silk Road presents more than two dozen appetizers, soups, salads, entrées and desserts, including, of course, Nobu’s signature dish – Black cod with miso.
|Silk Road restaurant on Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony|
Nobu oversees two highly trained chefs in his restaurant at sea. Head chef on Crystal Serenity, Mr Nakaguchi started working for Nobu almost 10 years ago in New York. He then opened the Nobu Las Vegas before moving to Miami and finally setting sail. Working a pattern of four months on followed by two months off, the two head chefs are accompanied by at least six staff each and they enjoy the freedom to create dishes using the basic Nobu ingredients whilst working within the limits of the cuisine.
Nobu’s philosophy follows the humble Japanese way of doing things and his goal is to ensure his customers always enjoy eating in his restaurants. “We never say no,” says Nobu. “As much as possible we’ll meet our customer’s needs.” And nowhere is this more important than on board ship. “On land we have different customers every day, but on a cruise the same customers might eat with us every day for two weeks, which is why we try, where we can, to work with any particular requests they might have. It means a lot to me when we get letters from cruise guests saying how much they’ve enjoyed the experience, and how great the chef was.”
For Nobu one of the main delights of sushi is that it’s not necessarily a whole meal: “If you’re not very hungry you can just pop to the sushi bar for a couple of pieces – it’s very comfortable food.”
Constantly travelling the world leaves Nobu little time to join the cruise ships himself (he was last on board in March to oversee the launch of the restaurants on Crystal Symphony). However, as Crystal’s ships also travel the world he often finds their paths cross. “I was in Mykonos recently, where I have a restaurant, and I saw one of the ships there, and when I was in Australia it was just incredible to see a Crystal ship in front of the Opera House. My wife actually spends more time cruising than I do!” laughs Nobu. “One of my problems is that it’s in my nature to work, so even if I’m invited on board to relax I’ll spend the time with my chef!
“What I like about a cruise is the view of the land from the ocean,” explains Nobu. “One day I hope to go to South America as I used to live there, and I’d love to cruise to Cape Town. We’ve got a project there next year and it would be great to see a white shark from a ship! I’ve got lots of plans, just not enough time!”
|A glimpse of the on-board menu|
Spicy Creamy King Crab
Spicy seafood soup
|Cold soba noodles
Nobu-style black cod with miso
Sashimi salad with Matsuhisa dressing
For the salad
Freshly ground black pepper
7oz (200g) fresh tuna fillet
5 tbsp plus 1 heaped tsp Matsuhisa dressing (see below)
2oz assorted salad vegetables
Red shiso for garnish (optional)
Preheat a grill or boiler. Sprinkle a little sea salt and black pepper on the tuna. Briefly sear the tuna until its surface turns white. Plunge the fillet into iced water to stop it cooking any further, then shake off the excess water.
For the Matsuhisa Dressing
¾ cup (70g) finely chopped onion
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp water
½ tsp granulated sugar
A pinch of sea salt
¼ tsp powdered mustard
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper
4 tsp grapeseed oil
4 tsp sesame oil
Combine all the ingredients except the oils. When the salt is fully dissolved, add the oils.
Pour the dressing into a serving dish. Arrange the salad and shiso leaves in the centre of the dish. Cut the tuna into slices 1/8 inch (4-5mm) thick. Roll each slice into a cylinder and place them in a petal-like pattern around the vegetables.
Black cod with miso
|Black cod with miso|
For the black cod
4 black cod fillets, about 8oz (230g) each
3 cups (800g) Nobu-style Saikyo miso (see below)
1 stalk hajikami
Pat the fillets dry with paper towels. Slather the fish with Nobu-style Saikyo miso and place in a nonreactive dish or bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Leave to steep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C/Gas 6). Preheat a grill or broiler. Lightly wipe off any excess miso from the fillets but don’t rinse. Place the fish on the grill, or in a broiler pan, and grill or broil until the fish turns brown. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
For the nobu-style saikyo miso
¾ cup (150ml) sake
¾ cup (150ml) mirin
2 cups (450g) white miso paste
¼ cups (225g) granulated sugar
Bring the sake and mirin to boil in a saucepan over a high heat. Boil for 20 seconds to evaporate the alcohol. Turn the heat down to low, adding the miso paste and stirring with a wooden spoon. When the miso has dissolved completely, turn up the heat to high again and add the sugar, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to ensure the bottom of the pan doesn’t burn. Remove from heat once the sugar is fully dissolved. Leave to cool to room temperature.
Arrange the black cod fillets on individual plates and garnish with hajikami. Add a few extra drops of Nobu-style Saikyo miso to each plate.