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D.C.’s Debut Nobu Touts Classic Dishes, Promises More to Come

The global tastemaker debuts tonight in the West End

Yellowtail sashimi at the new Nobu.
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

Celebrity magnet Nobu officially joins the D.C. dining world September 12, presenting a mix of meticulously honed Japanese-Peruvian cuisine the restaurant’s staff insists is unlike any other.

The iconic brand chef Nobu Matsuhisa co-founded decades ago in New York City has since spread all around the world. The new restaurant opening Tuesday in the tony West End is expected to feature dishes designed to tantalize first-timers, and reassure those who’ve dined at other Nobu outposts.

Although perhaps best known for its expertly assembled sushi, Nobu is actually a family-style gathering place where sharing dishes is highly encouraged, says general manager George Lipson.

“We’re not typically an appetizer-entree restaurant,” he says. A better way to approach the food, which in D.C. will be prepared by executive chef Eudy Camilo Cruz and executive sushi chef Sung Cho, is to explore different flavors by sampling as one might do at a tapas spot, Lipson suggests.

The dedicated sushi counter at the new Nobu.
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

Many Washingtonians are probably very familiar with tapas, sushi, and even Latin-Asian style dining thanks to existing operations including award-winning 14th Street NW standby Estadio, Michelin-starred Sushi Taro, and Think Food Group fusion spot China Chilcano. But Team Nobu is confident it's got something special to offer — thanks to Matsuhisa’s famously exacting standards.

Nobu executive sushi chef Sung Cho prepares sashimi.
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

“If they know sushi, they will know the classic sushi. But not this type,” Cruz tells Eater. According to Nobu director of operations Leong Loh, every roll must be perfectly balanced (think: carefully compressed sushi rice; hand-selected seaweed wrappers; proteins delicately brushed with complementary sauces). Other menu items that Lipson says have stood the test of time include: yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, rock shrimp tempura with spicy cream sauce, and black cod marinated in miso.

“These are the dishes that people love,” Lipson says.

For his part, Cruz enjoys mixing things up.

Nobu executive chef Eudy Camilo Cruz seasons vegetables on their way to becoming a hot dish.
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

An alum of Nobu 57 in New York City, during Eater’s tour of the open kitchen Cruz whipped up a variation of the marinated meat dish Peruvians know as anticucho, swapping in lightly salted and peppered shrimp that were sauteed with vegetables, splashed with sake, and then bathed in red (aji panca) and yellow (aji amarillo) pepper sauces.

The squid “pasta” at Nobu in D.C.
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

Over in the lounge, bar manager Thuy Hong remains committed to showcasing lesser known Japanese brews (think: rice-based pilsners, peppery sansho ales) but is also interested in utilizing local spirits, wine, and honey.

Nobu bar manager Thuy Hong mixes up a “25th and M” cocktail.
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

In addition to creating site-specific beverages such as the tequila-driven “25th and M” cocktail, Hong mapped out plans to barrel-age Japanese whiskey made from rice, and is actively hunting for distinctive hot sauces to help spice things up.

Hong puts the finishing touches on a cocktail at Nobu.
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

Beyond rolling out more drinks — “The bar program, it’s huge,” Hong swears — the local team is already contemplating what types of snacks would work best during a potential happy hour.

“It’s part of D.C. culture so it’s something that we’re working on,” Lipson says. Per Loh, Nobu’s corporate chef is actively developing just such a menu, listing lobster tacos, rock shrimp sliders, and wagyu beef-filled dumplings as offerings that have performed well at other Nobu restaurants.

Status: Opening at 5 p.m. 2525 M Street NW; website.