Address: 190 Orchard Blvd, Level 3, Singapore 248646
Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday 12:00pm – 2:30pm, 6:00pm – 10:00pm, Friday and Saturday 12:00pm – 2:30pm, 6:00pm – 10:30pm
For the longest time, NOBU in Singapore has never served their signature lunch bento boxes — until February this year. I had a chance to try it out at its promotional price of SGD 60++, before it returns to the original price of SGD 90++ per bento.
There are tons of mixed reviews about NOBU. I understand the hate, it being first and foremost well-known as Robert De Niro’s co-branded restaurant. How can a Hollywood celebrity open a high quality Japanese restaurant? To many, NOBU is unreachable to even the affluent, because of its outrageous prices compared to better Japanese restaurants — especially Japanese cuisine snobs. Let’s set aside Michelin star restaurants in the meantime.
I detest this mentality, just because it is mainstream + Robert De Niro branded. NOBU, running for nearly thirty years in the business, has obviously earned its place in the Japanese restaurant business. James Beard awardee Nobu Matsuhisa’s Peruvian influences into Japanese cuisine is much more well-received today among masses than it was perhaps in the 2000s, albeit traditional, simple, and less avant garde compared to New York’s Llama San.
I am going to keep it simple. I like the bento box. This two-decker beauty packs a punch beginning with the signature Hamachi and greens with Matsuhisa’s signature sauce in the first level. It continues into Chef’s pick of sushi and sashimi, which surprisingly masters the right temperature of the rice and freshness of the fish. If you don’t have the budget to try out Michelin star restaurants such as Sushi Yoshitake or Shinji Kanesaka, this is a great substitute. You are eating the NOBU brand, hence safety of the fish is paramount.
Second level: Tempura prawns with ponzu sauce. I find this a great snack between conversations and sips of whatever sake you ordered. And while that is hardly the finale, I like that it is a strong precursor to what you’re waiting for: The Black Cod Miso. It doesn’t disappoint. While NOBU Singapore is far from its veteran outlets in Las Vegas (1999) and New York (1994), the Black Cod Miso reigns supreme even in a simple bento box.
Finally, though less attractive is a bed of Japanese rice with spicy vegetables and bamboo shoots. I still like it, and to be frank, I never ate the bento box in the order of salad, sashimi, prawns, and the mains — I love that I can mix and match the variety of flavors in my mouth. That’s the beauty of bento boxes.
Beyond this, the service is excellent and well-orchestrated. It is the exact kind of customer service I am looking for in every restaurant. The staff is there before you need them. The staff is not there when you don’t need them. They don’t hover and annoy you. They don’t make you uncomfortable.
The SGD60 Bento Box promotion is only until end of February 2023, and sadly, renders my excitement passe. At SGD 90, it begs a little thought: would you spend SGD 90 for a bento box or go full steam with its dinner service? In the spirit of Omakase (which by the way sells at SGD 145 at NOBU Singapore), I leave that experience for you to decide.