For the past two years, the D.C. food scene has been abuzz with news that Nobu is coming, Nobu is coming.
Well, Nobu is here. Finally.
Friday at 10 a.m., the West End outpost (2525 M St. NW) of the acclaimed international chain will begin taking reservations for a Sept. 12 opening. This marks the 38th location of chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s classic sushi restaurant, which also has locations in Cape Town, Ibiza Bay, Monte Carlo, Miami and elsewhere.
Founded in 1994 in New York's Tribeca neighborhood, Nobu is recognized for its inventive take on Japanese food, often with Peruvian influences — a nod to Matsuhisa’s formative stint cooking in South America. It’s backed by a star-studded cast: Actor Robert De Niro is a co-founder, and film producer Meir Teper is the principal.
Those familiar with the Matsuhisa's work will recognize much of the menu, which is heavy on classics that have been served since Day One, including black cod with miso ($40) and rock shrimp tempura tossed in a creamy, spicy sauce ($26).
“The menu is designed to be a culinary roller coaster,” director of operations Leong Loh said. “Different dishes complement and contrast each other in texture and flavor.”
Housed in the ground floor of the ritzy new luxury condos project 2501 Residences on M Street, the D.C. location is a sprawling 11,000 square feet. The spacious interior can seat up to 250 and is traditional in design, with wood accents as far as the eye can see and muted colors on the upholstery.
Quality vegetarian dishes and non-sushi items are designed to appeal to a wide audience. Multiple private dining areas further make Nobu a good option for large groups.
“You can go anywhere and quench your appetite, but here it’s an event,” general manager George Lipson said. “People come here for holidays, business deals, birthdays and to share food with friends.”
Certain menu items are extravagant, which also suggests Nobu could be a hit among D.C.’s elite and power-diners. One piece of sea urchin tempura costs $20, and a baby spinach salad with yuzu truffle oil and lobster will set you back $45. If you’re a regular or a VIP, you can expect special off-menu items.
Sushi rolls, on the other hand, are more reasonable at about $11 each. “Based on our track record, we get first-dibs and the best quality fish,” Lipson said.
Over time, Nobu will introduce new dishes as the chef gets more familiar with D.C. diners.
“Every new restaurant, we discover the market and see what works and doesn’t,” Lipson said. “As we get more comfortable with staff and clientele, the menu starts growing. We start putting out various specials for people who understand what we do.”