Monday, May 25, 2015

Fun Playing With Asian Food at Nobu Tei, Solon Ohio

Our newest Solon favorite for playing with food is Nobu Tei, a lovely Asian eatery sandwiched between franchises Zoup and DiBella's Subs at 30050 Aurora Rd Solon OH 44139, not far from the Harper Road exit of US 422. They are open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

The menu ambitiously transports you from Sushi, Japanese Noodles and Tempura, to Hibachi, to Thai selections. For this report, we visited twice with friends, and took out one order. Our first visit and part of the take out focused on the Japanese cuisine (we'll skip the Hibachi, though), for the second visit and part of the take out, we "Thai'd one on" so to speak. Actually, while we couldn't actually "tie one on" during our April 2015 visits because the liquor permit was pending, the website of the Ohio Department of Liquor Control indicates they got their permits in late May - full bar, seven days a week. The bar area looks like a fun place to socialize. We settled for tea on our two visits. 

For our first adventure, each couple ordered the Sushi Combo For Two (Chef's Choice). According to the menu, the sushi plate should have been preceded by Miso Soup, but it never appeared, and our server didn't seem to think it was included (and we didn't feel like arguing). Also missing was the traditional warm towel to cleanse the face and hands before handling Japanese food.

Overall, this wasn't a bad plate of sushi, though the hamachi (second pair from the right, front) definitely smelled and tasted fishy. And the tamago (egg sushi) third row right, lacked profundity as well; it was stiff and watery and might have been a frozen product. The only other criticism is that this is presented as a dish to feed two diners. When I asked the server why there was only one piece each of tamago, octopus, and crab stick, she explained that it was a 15 piece order (which is stated in the menu, yes). Oh.

On the positive side, the Kimono Roll (4th row), which contained both real crab and kani, had a great combination of crunch and savory and, most important, it tasted fresh and good. The other items ranged from very good to a slightly chewy octopus (hard to share!), but other than the old-tasting hamachi, I'd try sushi there again. Our dining companions ordered two rolls in addition to their Sushi for Two: Eel Cucumber and Spicy Tuna. I enjoyed the piece of Spicy Tuna roll I tasted. Our companions liked the Eel Cucumber enough to order another on our next visit, the following week.

The next week, Bob and I started with Crispy Calamari, Thai Style. $6.75 bought us four large rings of squid and a squirt of spicy dipping sauce. And we liked it, so long as we didn't focus on the cost per ring. Fried to a crispy crunch, with a nice coating that stayed on as the ring was eaten, this was a pleasant dish. I would have liked some tentacles, or at least enough pieces to really share.

This next choice turned out a little strange - the menu says, "Avocado Salad. Sliced avocado, lettuce served with special sauce." As I adore all things avocado:

It was exactly as the menu described it: leaves of Iceberg Lettuce topped with slices of avocado and drizzled with a tingly-tasty sauce. Any avocado lover would like this, but it just seemed like an odd, sparse salad. Yes, I took the leftovers home and yes, I ate them.

Our Thai entrees were all preceded by a standard iceberg lettuce salad topped with a peanutty dressing and served right from the cooler:

So far, most of the food had been rather mundane. Not wanting to be negative, but want to tell the complete story.

But here is where Nobu Tei turned into a blissful experience; they won us over with the next four Thai dishes:

Yellow Curry with Chicken

Drunken Noodles

Swimming Crispy Duck in Red Curry

Massaman Curry w/Tofu
The three curries were each served with a bowl of rice. 

Each of these dishes jumped off the plate and danced on our palates with sophisticated spicing and respectable heat. The complexity of the sauces did not overwhelm the proteins; both tofu dishes were expertly prepared and featured crisped tofu the likes of which I haven't tasted in an NEO Ohio Thai restaurant anytime lately. The Drunken Noodles married fresh rice noodles with egg, onion, scallions, bell pepper, basil and choice of protein (tofu here), topped with a spicy, savory Thai Brown Sauce that made me wish I'd ordered the dish for myself. My Massaman Curry, however, also delighted the palate with complex flavors and assertive but not overwhelming spices. 

But the most exquisite of the dishes was the duck - fried to a perfectly crispy finish, swimming in a delightful red curry sauce with vegetables and cilantro.

The take-out started out similarly to how our last Nobu Tei meal had ended - with their other fried duck entree special: Spice Duck. 

Notwithstanding the rigors of packing and carrying, this duck was crisp and savory, with a slightly different spice profile from the Swimming Duck. The accompanying sauce was not a curry, but redolent of soy, fish sauce and a touch of sweet.

For take out, the sauce came on the side, together with the  peas, bell pepper, red onion, carrot, and basil leaves to accompany the dish. Here is how it looked together on the plate:

My entree came from the Japanese side of the menu: Yakisoba stir fried noodles with red onion, carrot and asparagus and more of that nicely fried tofu (my choice of protein). Though it paled a little next to the wonderfully complex and savory duck dish, it was most enjoyable.

We also shared an order of Chicken & Vegetable Tempura: 

Chicken strips, onion, broccoli, carrot, and mushroom were served with a mild dipping sauce (we actually liked the sauce for the duck with it better). Some of the foam container had melted, a tribute to the initial heat from freshly fried tempura. 

Overall, despite a few growing pains, Nobu Tei is a fun addition to Solon and the East Side Suburbs. While the sushi needed a little work, it was mostly very good and the complexity, depth and freshness of the Thai sauces and curries will win you over also. During our second visit, a group engaged one of the Hibachi tables nearby; it certainly sounded like they were having a good time. And despite the AWOL miso soup on our first visit, service is generally energetic and pleasant. So, based on our first three experiences, I look forward to playing with more food at Nobu Tei. 

Nobu Tei
(440) 318-1714
30050 Aurora Rd Solon OH 44139
No website, unofficial Facebook page here.

Nobu Tei on Urbanspoon

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