Nobu chills out up in the ‘Bu
October 25, 2010
MALIBU, USA – It seems like Nobu, the eponymous restaurant from master sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa, was made for Malibu. Despite presiding over a dining empire (locations of Nobu can be found throughout the globe, from New York to Milan to Dubai), consulting for cruise lines, authoring cookbooks, and making the media rounds, the chef maintains a remarkably chill attitude, often making appearances in a surfer-themed chef outfit, which suits hang loose Malibu just fine. Malibu’s beachside location also serves as an ideal backdrop for Nobu’s fresh sushi and hot seafood dishes. And finally, the ‘Bu (Malibu) and the ‘bu (Nobu) are namesakes!
Nobu tends to go with no-frills ambiance for many of his restaurants, but this Malibu outpost is even more low key than others. One of the smallest of the Nobu clan, it’s located in a strip mall (but a fancy one at that- see our entry on The Malibu Country Mart), and the bland décor is nothing to write home about, though fresh flowers and fine table settings smarten it up a bit. It could use more sparkle, but then again an upgrade might harsh the mellow.
Even with the strip mall setting and laidback vibes, Nobu Malibu still attracts the finest of the coast’s glitterati to its power scene dining room and gleaming sushi bar. Upscale surfer types mix with “off duty” celebs looking for a break from the Hollywood scene (which calls to mind another Malibu/Nobu synergy…the chef himself has had small roles in films including Austin Powers in Goldmember and Memoirs of a Geisha).
I opted for a spot on the covered terrace and discovered that Nobu’s food is best enjoyed in such relaxed surrounds. After the cramped quarters and “on duty” celeb fest of his flagship in Beverly Hills, the Malibu spot felt refreshing and directed my attention to the action on the plate rather than in the room. Nobu’s signature Peruvian-Japanese fusion is in full effect here. Specialties like yellowtail with jalapeño, black cod with miso, and rock shrimp tempura are enduringly tasty. Aside from the surf, there’s also some turf, such as the decadent ribeye with yuzu butter truffle sauce and Kobe beef with crispy shiitake mushrooms. The menu even has a “Malibu Specials” section, with locally inspired choices like the mini tacos.
It’s great to be able to feast with abandon and not have to worry about somehow wriggling out of your little black dress at the end of the night. The attire is surprisingly casual–you could even get away with jeans, though I’d probably opt for a cute sundress or skirt to keep up with the beach bunny set.
All in all, Nobu Malibu offers the same tasty fare and even some of the same Hollywood stardust as the chef’s other restaurants in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood but with much less hype. The only potential drawback is that if you’re staying anywhere along the Hollywood-Downtown fault line, getting out to Malibu can be quite a car trek. Then again, snaking up the breathtaking Pacific Coast Highway isn’t exactly a hardship, and any lingering road rage is guaranteed to be cured by Team ‘Bu.
RL contributed to this post
Read more about Nobu Malibu at The Purple Passport