Food and drink

World’s best dishes: Black cod

Cathy Adams travels 6,000 miles from Hong Kong to London to seek out black cod perfection

This story isn’t so much how Nobu became the best place to eat miso black cod – it’s how miso black cod became Nobu.

Japan-born chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s most famous dish is simple. Fillets of sablefish – a fatty, buttery fish found in the north Pacific, commonly known as ‘black cod’ – are marinated in a mixture of miso and sugar for 72 hours before being served sparingly and classily on a banana leaf.

In Nobu’s first European outpost on the first floor of the Como Metropolitan, overlooking London’s Hyde Park, the miso black cod is one of the most popular dishes – as it is in every Nobu.

Nobu Westernised centuries-old Japanese cooking techniques with his self-proclaimed ‘Nobu style’. In Japan, sablefish was originally marinated in sake and miso, so it would keep longer. What Nobu did was add the sweet mirin and sugar glaze and crisp up the fillet to a golden brown. It immediately appealed to diners who were more familiar with the sushi and teriyaki of Japanese cooking. And crucially: miso black cod was incredibly easy to make, therefore incredibly easy to replicate as the chef eyed global expansion.

More than 20 years after he opened his first Nobu restaurant in New York, there’s scarcely a corner of the globe that the Japanese chef hasn’t exported his most famous dish: the most recent being to Honolulu. And two decades later, there aren’t many restaurants that can claim fame based on just one dish: Ferran Adrià’s liquid olives, Heston Blumenthal’s snail porridge and Tim Ho Wan’s roasted pork buns aside.

You don’t need to worry about any of this. Instead plonk yourself on a dark wooden chair by the window, order a plate of miso black cod and a bowl of tossed spinach on the side. The black cod’s the thing, after all.

Cathy Adams is a Hong Kong-based journalist who pretends to hate food. Nobu is at the Como Metropolitan, London.

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