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Nobuo… we missed you!

October 7, 2010

This summer brought some happy new additions to Valley dining. By far, the restaurant I was most anticipating was Nobuo at Teeter House. After closing Sea Saw last year, there were many of us anxious to see what Nobuo Fukuda would do next and, more importantly, where. I had real fear that Arizona would lose this James Beard award-winning chef. With the glowing national press that Sea Saw generated, it was not hard to imagine that Nobuo and his formidable skills could have easily moved on to bigger and brighter kitchens. However, when I heard that he was not moving on to New York or Chicago, but instead the Teeter House across from Pizzeria Bianco I couldn’t get my head around it.

Nobuo, with his imaginative and daring omakase menu, was moving into the old lady Teeter Tea House?

Oh, but the rumors were true. And I am so glad he did.

Nobuo at Teeter House opened this summer recreating the turn-of-the-century brick bungalow into a refined Asian izakaya. Nobuo showed that his discerning eye is not limited to the culinary world. Gone are the faded chintz and Victorian doilies, and instead the beautiful Craftsmen-style of the home was lovingly restored and renewed with a subtle Japanese influence. The Teeter House is now a chic establishment more befitting Nobuo’s world-class talent.

Sean and I were lucky enough to go with Bob to Nobuo’s opening in July. Although with all of the excitement of the evening, we were able to enjoy only a small sampling from his menu. So this week we set out again with the full intent to see really what Nobuo had created. Crazily enough, we had decided to go Tuesday evening, and if you remember the storms that rocked the Valley this past Tuesday, you may wonder why we didn’t have better sense to stay home. But it turns out it was the perfect evening to be there. While the weather was creating havoc on the I-17, we were being reacquainted once again with the dishes and flavors we had loved at Sea Saw.

Nobuo’s new menu has a few old favorites next to some new additions that we were excited to try. Although the one item we were most interested in was created by the bartender. In honor of Bob, Nobuo has a cocktail called the “Smoky Bob” a beautiful drink that has a slightly smoky aroma but with a sweet citrusy flavor. Created with Cointreau, reserve mezcal, along with grapefruit juice, McClendon’s Select Orange Blossom honey and a jalapeno, it is like nothing I have ever tried.

We both poured over the menu, torn over trying the things we had loved from Sea Saw and exploring new creations. In the end, we chose a little bit of everything. The Grapefruit & Hamachi reminded me of many wonderful evenings at Sea Saw, as did the Shiromi Carpaccio. Sean ordered the Kumamoto Oysters with Uni, that was served with a sweet tomato water and wasabi oil, which I couldn’t resist either. The Pork Belly Buns with pickled celery and the Panko-Fried Soft Shell Crab Sandwich are both incredible new dishes that I am thrilled to see are on his lunch menu as well.

And, of course, we ordered the Tempura Squash Blossoms.

The squash blossoms from the farm are treated as our crown jewels. They are picked first thing in the morning, when they are fully opened, and then placed in boxes with moistened paper towels to keep them fresh. Each one is then gently packed so the blossom is not crushed as it is delivered to our restaurants. Trust me, I have seen the squash blossom protocol around here, and it is a delicate, pain-staking procedure that deserves a chef’s respect. I was happy to report back to Marsha that Nobuo did her proud. The blossoms were stuffed with goat cheese, shrimp and shitake mushrooms and fried in a tempura batter and given a little dish of curry salt on the side to season. They were treated with the same high standards and attention in Nobuo’s kitchen as we give them during harvesting.

What I loved most about our meal, was sitting at the bar across from Nobuo as he created. For all of the praise Sea Saw generated, what was truly special was the open kitchen that allowed you to observe as this culinary alchemy unfolded.* Just as I had feared that Phoenix would lose him, I also worried that this art would be hidden away back in the kitchen. Instead, there were four front row seats, where we got to watch and enjoy Nobuo’s company along with his preparation. Sean and I ate along side another couple and the four of us compared notes about the menu and visited with Nobuo, talking about farming and food and New York speakeasies. While the rest of the city was in the midst of a storm’s turmoil, we felt hidden away enjoying the luxuries of good food and conversation at, of all places, the Teeter House.

Nobuo at the Teeter House
622 East Adams Street
Phoenix
602.254.0600
www.nobuofukuda.com

*In case you didn’t know, that same kitchen is still alive and well and now the home of FnB. The food couldn’t be more different, but it is incredible in its own right and Charlene Badman is the perfect chef to make that kitchen sing once again.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Marie permalink
    December 21, 2010 11:39 pm

    Nobuo at Teeter House is one of my new favorite Phoenix restaurants. I can’t believe how fresh and delicious it is.

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