By Angelo G. Garcia
Thick udon noodles in a rich, briny, and that all-familiar bright orange sauce topped with prawns, perfectly cooked onsen egg (soft-cooked egg in soy broth), and finely crushed “chicharon.” This is Nobu Manila’s version of the Filipino classic noodle dish, palabok. Instead of the traditional shrimp based sauce, the umami richness comes from naturally creamy sea urchin roe. Also, the “chicharon” topping is made from bacon, seaweed, and sesame seeds, instead of the regular crunchy pork rinds.
Despite using different ingredients, the classic flavors are there, from the rich sauce to the tartness added by the calamansi juice.This Nobu palabok is just one of the Filipino-inspired dishes the international restaurant chain recently launched. This is part of a menu that Nobu New York executive chef Ricky Estrellado and Nobu Manila head chef Michael de Jesus created for a limited time only.
“The challenge is to marry almost three different kinds of cuisine while still holding to our Japanese-Peruvian identity. Now we try to add a Filipino aspect [to this],” explains Filipino-American chef Michael.
Nobu, known worldwide for its Japanese-Peruvian cuisine, thought of offering Filipino-inspired dishes to cater to its loyal local patrons and foreign guests looking for something different. The restaurant started serving the special menu last April 1, but it is available until June 30.
There are four sushi variants for the special menu: The seared tuna sushi with ginataan had the most accurate flavors among the selection. The lightly seared tuna on a pillow of sushi rice is topped with a coconut milk-based sauce with ginger, garlic, and chili pepper. Another must try is the tuna sisig cut roll—cooked and chilled tuna mixed with red and green chili peppers, onions, mayonnaise, and calamansi juice, all of which are rolled in rice with asparagus and nori.
Chef Michael, who was born and raised in the US, picked Filipino dishes that would pair well with Nobu’s cuisine, aside from having a universal appeal among Filipinos. He says that he personally asked the restaurant’s local staff what local dishes could be elevated into a Nobu fare.
“I asked the staff what they would like to see on the menu,” Chef Michale recounts. “It was universal across the board—everybody likes palabok and everybody likes kare-kare, sisig. Kare-kare is one of my favorite things to eat. When I see kare-kare served without an oxtail, I turn away. I was spoiled like that. My mom always makes it with oxtail, tripe, eggplant, and bok choy. She wouldn’t make it, unless she got those basic ingredients, which is why I fell in love with it. The sisig I learned about when I came here as a teenager. Instead of the brain, we put foie gras, but I try to replicate the texture of brain.”
Chef Michael started his culinary career at Nobu in Los Angeles then worked at Nobu Las Vegas until eventually landing the job here at Nobu Manila last year.
The kurobuta and foie gras sisig pica-pica is a two-piece bao dish stuffed with sous vide pork belly seared foie gras, chili, onion, and yuzu soy sauce. But the main attraction of the menu is the Nobu palabok and the Wagyu beef short ribs kare-kare anticucho. The Filipino peanut stew is presented in a refined way but still familiar. The braised short rib, Japanese eggplant, baby bok choy are complemented by the kare-kare anticucho sauce. Anticucho is a Peruvian sauce made of lemon, vinegar, and different herbs and spices. The special kare-kare dish is of course not complete without a dollop of sautéed shrimp paste.
Finish this Filipino meal with Nobu’s take on halo-halo, which is a regular item on its menu. The restaurant uses Japanese red beans, small sesame seed-covered mochi balls, and other ingredients.
The Filipino-Inspired Nobu Specials Menus are available until June 30 / Nobu Manila, Level 1, Nobu Hotel Manila / 02 800 8080, 02 6912882 / firstname.lastname@example.org / cityofdreams.com