The Many Faces of Nobu
I don’t know about you, but when people starting throwing the name Nobu around, I automatically get to wondering which one they’re talking about. Maybe it shouldn’t matter, for the Nobu brand is supposed to embody quality, innovation, elegance, and ‘hot spot.’ The very name conjures up exclusivity.
However, I have been to two of the three outposts in New York, and they couldn’t be more different in decor, vibe, and the general experience.
Nobu Fifty-Seven is, in short, very Midtown. It is big and in-your-face. It is glitzy, noisy, and packed with suits. The hostess shouts boorishly ‘welcome’ in Japanese every time a new patron walks in – and in a restaurant so large, that is very frequently. Big round tables dot the expansive dining room, indicating that this is a place popular with the business lunch crowd, while the sushi bar sits diminuitively on the side of the room. The focus here is on big BIG BIG.
Nobu Next Door, in Tribeca, is very much not Midtown. Far sleeker and sexier than its uptown sister, Nobu Next Door is soft and luxurious with beautiful decorative accents. The narrow David Rockwell-designed space almost glows, due to the low hanging lanterns, and is dotted with charming homespun details.
They represent opposite ends of the ;atmosphere spectrum’; Matsuhisa is essentially asking you to take your pick.
Both restaurants serve up the South-American inspired Japanese cuisine that has made Nobu Matsuhisa a very famous and very rich man, and both restaurants serve it up well. The menus are extensive, offering an array of hot and cold dishes as well as sushi, sashimi and tempura. To give you an idea of the options, included are: Bigeye Tuna Tataki with Ponzu, Kumamoto Oysters with Maui Onion Salsa, Nobu Sashimi Tacos, Rock Shrimp Tempura, Squid Pasta with Garlic Sauce, Halibut Cheeks with Wasabi Pepper Sauce, Fish & Chips Nobu Style, Creamy Spicy Crab, and Japanese Cod with Black Bean Sauce. The food is fresh, and while it may not seem inventive now, as hordes of ‘asian fusion’ restaurants have cannibalized on Matsuhisa’s concept, innovative for its time.
Nobu did it first and they do it right, still, to this day. If you’re looking for the original, the pioneer, and for the lasting best, then look no further than Nobu. While there are many faces to Matsuhisa’s fusion empire, the quality of the food remains consistently high.