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For Asian fusion cuisine, you can’t top Chef Nobu – on land or at sea

Over the years, we have had the good fortune to dine in the United States and Japan – as well as on the high seas – at several of the restaurants of legendary Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa.

Known for fusion cuisine melding Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients, Nobu – with backing from actor Robert De Niro – over the past 35 years has built arguably the most widely recognized and honored restaurant empire on the planet.

For Florida residents who are Nobu fans, an outpost of his restaurant in Miami Beach – located for the past half dozen years in the boutique Nobu Hotel on Collins Avenue – has been the easiest way to sample his world-famous offerings.

But this winter – from November through mid-January – an even better option may be to try some fusion of your own: combine spectacular meals with a Caribbean getaway out of Miami on the ultra-luxury cruise ship, Crystal Serenity.

The Nobu restaurant on Serenity, Umi Uma, is considerably more intimate than the large, bustling Miami Nobu, but the preparation of the dishes is every bit the equal. And given that the price of dining at Umi Uma is imbedded in your cruise fare, it may make your vacation at sea a bargain.

On a recent visit to Nobu Restaurant in Miami, we dropped $500 on a decadent five-course feast accompanied by some modestly priced wines.

But a month earlier, on an eight-day Serenity cruise from England to Iceland, we had an opportunity to dine twice at Umi Uma. There is no charge for the first visit on a cruise, and subsequent visits have only a $50 cover – a sum that barely covers the valet parking cost at Nobu in Miami Beach.

The Nobu restaurants on Crystal’s two ships, Serenity and Symphony, are the only two outposts at sea of an empire that now spans five continents.

The many sushi and sashimi plates at Nobu restaurants are all as wonderful as you would expect. At Nobu Miami, one of our favorites was salmon nashi – salmon sashimi wrapped around nashi pear, topped with yuzu and lemon juice, truffle salt and truffle oil. Fantastic.

But one of the things we particularly appreciated on our recent voyage on Crystal was the head waiter’s insistence that we try a sampler plate of Nobu’s “new style” sashimi as well.

The story behind “new style,” we were told, was that Nobu once had a customer at his flagship Beverly Hills restaurant send back a sashimi dish when she belatedly discovered she was being served raw fish.

“I wanted to find some way to salvage the dish,” Nobu has been quoted as saying, “so I grabbed hot oil that was sitting on the stove and poured it over the fish, searing it on contact.”

In Umi Uma on Crystal, the sampler plate of new style sashimi that we were served consisted of salmon, whitefish, and waygu beef. The delicate slices seemed seared by the hot olive oil, but retained the tender texture of raw beef or fish. The tastes were extraordinary!

As a result of our Umi Uma experience, on our recent visit to Nobu Miami, we tried the new style scallop plate (which is also offered on Crystal). It consisted of thinly sliced scallop with sesame, seared with the hot oil. It was absolutely perfection.

Nobu’s signature entrée – probably the most ordered dish at all of his restaurants – has long been his black cod with miso.

But there are other entrees offered at his restaurants worth a try as well. At Nobu Miami, we feasted on the perfectly folded dumplings stuffed with juicy short rib. And at Umi Uma on Serenity, I loved the stir-fried lobster with garlic, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms and snap peas finished with truffle-yuzu sauce.

Just as there are good Asian restaurants now in many communities, there are good Asian restaurants on an increasing number of cruise ships.

But there is only one Chef Nobu.

If you are craving the absolute best in Japanese-Peruvian fusion fare, you can’t go wrong visiting a Nobu restaurant – on land or at sea.

Photos provided

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