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February, 2012, Page 138
Photos by David Moore
Say “yes” to this menu-less omakase restaurant serving innovative Japanese plates tailored to your palate.
Noh may sound like an oddly negative name, but look closer and it’s entirely apropos. In Japanese, the word means “talent” – something its improvisation-minded sushi chefs possess in spades. And it refers to a form of 14th-century Japanese theater where actors are disguised by masks – a fitting metaphor for a hard-to-find omakase restaurant serving courses that unfold like dramatic plot lines.
Noh opened last spring in the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale, yet has remained largely under the radar. The matchbox-sized restaurant is secreted in a downstairs alcove with room only for a mahogany dining bar and chefs’ work area. Reservations are a must for the two seatings (6 and 8 p.m.), and there is no menu.
In Japanese, omakase means “it’s up to you,” which further translates as intricately designed small-plate tastings that showcase the chef’s choice of seasonal ingredients, tailored to each diner’s preferences. Chefs Marc Kain and Karen Lucero tweak their dishes often, and your six-course meal ($65 including wines and sakes, $45 without drinks) may be completely different from that of the diner next to you.
miso-glazed sea bass
I love yellowfin tuna, for example, so the chefs prepared rich red slabs of maguro sashimi curled against tiny garlic chips, avocado and kaiware sprouts moistened with wasabi oil and Sriracha aioli. Just as apt for maguro lovers: a slender tower of tuna tartare studded with pine nuts, stabbed with a fried shiso leaf, and nestled atop sliced cucumber in soy-ginger vinaigrette.
Lobster isn’t one of my favorites, so while my companion savored lobster nigiri wrapped in a ribbon of seaweed dotted with tobiko caviar, I relished rich and buttery curls of hamachi served over lacy coins of watermelon radish brightened with sweet-tart ruby grapefruit segments and a splash of yuzu kosho vinaigrette.
Non-seafood courses may include juicy slices of pomegranate-soy-glazed duck over Napa cabbage slaw dressed with Mandarin orange vinaigrette and sprinkled with shards of crystallized ginger. Dessert may feature a delicate cake of butterscotch-and-white-miso steamed pudding topped with candied chestnuts.
Part of the fun of Noh is interacting with the chefs in what’s called “theater” – they perform flashy knife maneuvers, transform tiny herbs into decorative accents, and expound on exotic offerings such as purple Okinawan sweet potato, a square of Kinugoshi tofu dotted with kamaboko fish paste, or matcha yokan sweet bean paste jelly. For the final act, they may unveil a scoop of green tea ice cream billowing dramatically in clouds of liquid nitrogen. Who could say “no” to that?
: 7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd. (Hyatt Regency Scottsdale), Scottsdale
: Seatings at 6 and 8 p.m. nightly. Reservations are required.
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