Hidden away off Toorak Road, Nobori is Toorak Village’s new eatery – serving up a mix of authentic Japanese food, and modern main courses, many with a thoroughly British twist. We were invited to visit and sample some of the great dishes from their menu.
Don’t be put off by the fact that Nobori is technically in a “shopping centre”. It’s a gorgeously decked out, classy, intimate restaurant, accommodating larger groups if necessary and offering an outdoor dining area overlooking a quiet street. It feels like fine dining, but relaxed and comfortable. The highly friendly staff and open kitchen make you feel as though you are visiting a friend’s for dinner (a really fancy friend, who’s a great cook, but still – it’s not stuck up is what I’m trying to say here – sorry guys, it’s been a long Monday!)
The menu is varied, offering a range of sushi and sashimi, hot and cold entrees, grilled meats and various mains and desserts. Now M.B. isn’t a fan of sushi (obviously), so I think we sampled most other areas of the menu. For entree we tried both the homemade pork and veg gyoza and the Yakitori. As you can see they were presented beautifully. The dumplings had a thin soft skin, they were silky smooth and juicy with a mellow, well balanced taste (a spicy dip is provided for those of you wanting a bit of a kick to your gyoza). The terriyaki sauce on the skewers was sticky and flavourful and the meat was well cooked.
For mains we had the lamb cutlet and grilled fish, both were served with roast potatoes and seasonal veg and did present like a classic British meal, however, the flavours were definitely Japanese, through the wonderful blend of spices on the fish (think flavour, not heat) and the terriyaki addition to the red wine sauce with the lamb. I really liked the mains, they were different to anything I had tried in Japanese cuisine before, they were unexpected and done very well. The fish melted in your mouth and the lamb cutlets were perfectly cooked. The accompaniments were a good choice to complement the main element of the dishes and offered a good variety of textures and flavours, although I would have perhaps liked to see each main served with slightly different sides.
By the time we had devoured all this we were struggling for room, but Nobori insisted we try their desserts. I still had half of my sweet, delicious espresso martini left so we decided why not! We had the green tea panna cotta (you know me, never one to say no to a panna cotta) and the cheesecake – made in house that day. Both desserts were very different, mine was that classic Asian mix of sweet and savoury dominated by both green tea and sesame flavours. I love these kind of desserts, so while I know they may not be for everyone, it was a big win for me. The panna cotta had the perfect wobble, and wasn’t too big, which was ideal given its strong flavour. If you’re not as adventurous as me, the cheesecake offers a far more traditional dessert option. Fluffy and light, with a tasty berry sauce, this dessert suits everyone – the flavour changes regularly too so you’ll never get bored.
Now many of my foodie friends know that when my parents come to visit it’s a massive headache as my mother is so difficult to feed (seriously, I wonder how I became a foodie), and this is where Nobori, for me, is a God send – it’s a Japanese restaurant I can take my mother too. It’s kind of like entry level Japanese food – there’s still enough of those familiar Western ingredients on the menu to find something for even those most reluctant eaters, but there’s plenty of authentic Japanese flavours and menu offerings to please someone looking for a more traditional Asian meal. My only reservation would be that it can quickly get pricey at around $30 for a main and $7+ for entrees. There’s so much variety that you could quickly find yourself racking up quite a bill, but then who cares, no one’s buying houses anymore anyway, so might as well invest in some good food. The food and service really are excellent though, so while it’s definitely not a cheap eat, everything we sampled left me feeling it is well worth the extra $$.