Dining (And Drinking) At Adrestia and Nokori Japanese Whisky Bar
Admittedly, when it comes to whisky, I am a total light-weight. It’s not that I don’t enjoy its smooth smoky, vanilla and caramel richness. It’s just that I fear keeling over after two sips.
That’s why I was glad to get introduced to Nokori Japanese Whisky Bar in the Tetra Hotel in Sunnyvale. It’s designed not only for true connoisseurs who like to sip premium and potent whisky neat, but for more wimpy imbibers like myself who can kick back instead with a lightened-up, tall whisky highball instead.
Last week, I was invited in as a guest of both Nokori and its adjacent restaurant Adrestia. Both are housed inside the upscale Tetra Hotel, which is actually right across from the AC Hotel Sunnyvale Moffet Park, which has a bar that conversely specializes in gin. Both are Marriott properties.
Since it’s located near several Google buildings and Lockheed Martin, don’t be surprised to see plenty of tech types with laptops and suitcases biding their time in the lobby, bar or restaurant until they depart for the airport.
Nokori sports a contemporary lounge-y feel with a large bar and minimalist sofas with low tables. The Japanese whisky list comprises 24 different ones, including an 18-year-old Yamazaki that will set you back $145 for a glass. Every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to midnight, the bar offers small free sips of a different featured whisky, too.
The bar offers nine different Japanese whisky highballs, as well as two other highballs made with different spirits (Japanese gin or Japanese vodka), plus two non-alcoholic highballs.
Nokori is one of the few restaurants in the area to have a Suntory Highball machine, I was informed. For those unfamiliar with a highball, it is a drink that’s most often composed of whisky and soda water. This deceptively simple looking machine sits behind the bar at the ready to dispense super carbonated water to-order along with the perfect precise ratio of chilled whisky. The drink flows out with fine, tiny, and vigorous bubbles almost like Champagne that last a long time. Rather than tasting like a cocktail that was stirred together, it’s as if both whisky and water molecules somehow become fused.
That’s what I found when I tried the Yuzu Highball ($15), made with Suntori Toki, soda water and yuzu syrup, and served in a tumbler with an elongated bar of ice known as a Collins sphere nearly as lengthy as the glass, itself. Who knew a whisky drink could be this refreshing? Light and bright, with a subtle floral citrus note, there’s no boozy burn, just the merest hint of alcohol warmth at the back of the throat at the very finish. I’m not one to ever order a shot of whisky at a bar, but I would happily order a highball like this again and again.
Beverages at Nokori come with gratis bar nibbles: little bowls of sweet, sticky and savory furikake Chex Mix and candied matcha popcorn.
There’s also a compact bar menu that includes some items available at Adresti, along with others that aren’t.
I went with the grilled lobster sando ($20), which is listed on both menus. Daintier than the New England version, this one is closer to a British tea sandwich. It’s made with squishy Japanese milk bread that’s been toasted to add a nice crispiness in contrast to its soft, fluffy crumb. Slightly spicy from togarashi cheese, this orange-tinged, bechamel-like layer of filling is all creamy in texture with little bits of shredded lobster rather than sizeable chunks. Drag it through the swipe of miso aioli on the plate to add a savory, garlicky oomph. The sando may be petite in size, but it is quite rich tasting.
When we were done, we walked a few feet away to Adrestia for dinner. There is no host stand, which can make for some confusion on the part of diners as to whom to check in with to get seated. But one of the servers, all of whom are dressed in white jeans and white button-down shirts, will spot you soon enough to show you to a table.
More cocktails are available here, including the Wasabi By You ($18). You know I had to order it, because, well, wasabi in a drink, right? It was icy, slightly creamy from coconut, and a little sweet from rum and ginger. The wasabi pea-infused orgeat, a syrup made from almonds, gave the drink a lovely marzipan taste. Surprisingly, I couldn’t really taste the wasabi except for the merest hint of mustard at the very end if I really concentrated. In fact, if I hadn’t known wasabi was in the drink, I would have never guessed it necessarily was.
Executive Chef Hideki Myo oversees the menu. Born in Tokyo, he got his start as an apprentice at a hotel there. After winning a green card lottery, he made his way to California to cook at the San Francisco Westin and the Hyatt Regency Fisherman’s Wharf.
Skillet cornbread ($10) is one of the most popular starters and it’s easy to see why. Arriving hot and freshly baked in a cast-iron pan, it sports wonderful crispy edges and a moist crumb interspersed with corn kernels. Crocks of honey butter and miso butter come alongside so you can choose to go sweet or savory.
Hamachi tiradito ($24) brings slices of the rich, fatty fish in a zesty and slightly spicy aji amarillo sauce the color of a sunflower. Little cubes of orange and purple sweet potato dot the plate, in a nod to Peruvian ceviche inspired by Ana Artadi, the restaurant’s food and beverage director of Peruvian heritage who collaborates with Myo.
A new menu had just rolled out the night I dined, so the kitchen can be forgiven for forgetting to add the konbu dashi to my dish of Corvina Nikkei ($40), a finishing touch that was quickly rectified when I told the server. The crunchy rice cracker under the fish will soak up that dashi, rendering it even more delicious. The firm, meaty and mild tasting fish was seared nicely and came with sauteed kale and baby turnips.
The tempura whole fish that night was Thai snapper ($64). It’s a sizeable dish that two people could easily share or one person can count on taking leftovers home. Rather than the fish being fried whole in its entirety, the fillets are removed and fried so that it more resembles fish & chips arrayed on the fried skeleton of the fish — head, tail, fins, and all. The light batter is plenty crisp and leaves the fish succulent. It comes with a heap of crunchy cabbage salad with fried rice noodles, and a swoop of sweet, spicy, and tangy Korean barbecue sauce.
We ended with the flourless chocolate cake ($15). This one wasn’t dense like heavy ganache, but lighter in texture, and probably made with almond flour instead. A fluff of Hokkaido whipped cream that tasted like fresh sweet milk provided the perfect garnish.
If you’re in the neighborhood, stop in to Tetra to start a love affair with highballs and enjoy some fine Japanese-California noshes.