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Not a factory that mass-creates: Gábor Schreiner

Gábor Schreiner, executive chef of Nobu Budapest talks about the challenges of being a part of one of the world’s most famous restaurant chains.

india Updated: Jun 08, 2013 19:38 IST
Shweta Mehta
Shweta Mehta
Hindustan Times

The Michelin-starred Nobu is counted among the best global restaurant chains in the world. A few days back, the executive chef of Nobu Budapest, Gábor Schreiner, was in the country.

We met at the Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa, a short drive from Pawna, where he served up some signature dishes, including the Black Cod Miso, founder chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s speciality.

What is the food philosophy you follow?
The philosophy is very traditional, but the flavours are stronger than regular Japanese food. This is a chain that started in the USA. Nobu-san (Matsuhisa, owner) spent many years studying American cuisine, and he’s very open-minded, so he incorporated their ideas. He was shocked by the spicy, hot taste and how much garlic they used. He incorporated it into traditional food to create a good balance.

How is it different from working at another restaurant?
I’m told that I’m in a great position because all the recipes are given to me, and that’s true. But people don’t understand how difficult it is to maintain this standard. Recently, Nobu-san flew all of us to Moscow. We spoke about our problems; he fixed our recipes and discussed new ideas.

There’s a lot of travelling and training involved. We do get a bit of a free hand to come up with specials that aren’t served at other Nobu restaurants. So we have our space, but there’s a standard to maintain.

How different is the food at one outlet from another?
Officially, all our dishes are the same, but that’s not really true. We aren’t a factory or a chain that mass-creates and freezes dishes. We have exact recipes, but if no two lemons are the same, the dishes need to be adjusted and balanced. It may taste similar, but not the same as another.

How often does Nobu visit each outlet?
For 10 months a year, he flies around the world in his private jet. Only in August, he is inaccessible as he spends time with his family in Tokyo. He tries to visit all the outlets every year, but there’s no fixed rule. Our Budapest outlet is quiet and small, but the London, New York and Los Angeles ones have a lot more going on, so he spends more time there.

Weren’t there plans for a Mumbai outpost?
I’d heard a few years ago that it’s happening, but I don’t know when it will open. The Budapest one was planned many years ago, and then the plans froze. Eventually, it opened in a different hotel than planned. Nobu-san has a strict thinking about where he’s going to open a restaurant. I feel the Indian market is huge and it will happen soon.

Steamed Turbot with Mango Salsa

*140 gm turbot or seabass fillet
*50 gm ripe mango
*80 gm shiitake mushroom
*1 tbsp brown sugar
*200 ml sake or dry white wine
*1 small habanero pepper
*90 ml double cream
*1 tbsp sweet miso (saikyo) paste

For the sauce:
*50 ml mirin (Japanese sweet sake)
*50 ml grape seed oil
*30 ml mango balsamic vinegar
*30 ml nut oil
*3 gm wasabi
*1 tsp chilli oil
*1 tsp spicy Peruvian pepper pürée (aji amarillo)

*For the sauce combine everything in a blender and mix it together until a smooth, creamy consistency.
*Caramelise the sugar on clarified butter. Add the sake or the white wine and the habanero pepper cook for 10 minutes, add the double cream.
*Thicken with the miso. Don’t boil more than one minute.
*Cut the shiitake very thin slices. In 170 Celsius vegetable oil, fry golden brown, let dry with paper, mix with the habanero sauce.
*Salt and pepper the fish. Steam in a bamboo steamer for six minutes.
*Serve with the mangoes on the side.

First Published: Jun 08, 2013 14:30 IST