The Dish: Food Meets Scene

by Catherine Trifiletti

Nobu opens in the West End to ample fanfare. 

Salmon sashimi (Photo by Henry Hargreaves)

Nobu’s reputation precedes it as a place to see and be seen, frequented by the likes of the Obamas and Kardashians. Its opening in Washington’s West End neighborhood last month marks Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s 38th location worldwide. It signals that local residents’ collective hunger for good food and a great scene is seemingly insatiable and, if its first few weeks are any indication, the luxury sushi chain will draw a high-profile crowd here. On night one Mayor Muriel Bowser was seen dining with celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn and former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Chef Nobu Matsuhisa (Courtesy Photo)

Impossible to ignore in the equation are the freshly renovated condos sitting atop the restaurant that are priced upwards of $3 million.You’ll have to move there if you want Nobu takeout, as it will exclusively available to residents of the building. PRP Real Estate Investment Management is behind 2501 Residences on M Street and the group’s president, Paul Dougherty, is said to have served as the catalyst to persuade the luxury chain to locate here—as did other VIPs,includingUnitedArabEmirates Ambassador Youssef Al-Otaiba, who along with Dougherty and Henry Fonvielle of the Rappaport Companies, courted Hollywood producer and Nobu president Meir Teper. The build out of the space was a $10 million feat with special attention paid to the dual sushi and hot kitchens each Nobu outpost requires.

Toro tartare (Photo by Henry Hargreaves)


Dim lights, ambient house music and warm interior design details give the restaurant a minimal but sexy feel. General Manager George Lipson, who has bounced around Nobu locations across the globe, speaks passionately about the “Nobu experience,” the allure that famously attracts A-listers. The philosophy is simple, he says: “great food, great service” at any cost. Each of the restaurant’s 250 seats offer a different variation of the experience.Twelve bar seats provide front row tickets to see a team of sushi chefs performing food theater, while booths next to the entrance provide a panoramic view of the open floor plan and the comings and goings of dolled-up guests. Both the sushi bar and the lounge area are first come, first served. In addition to private event spaces, there are two outdoor patios in the works.

Sushi bar. (Photo by Greg Powers)

The technique-driven cuisine strikes a harmonious balance between Japanese and Peruvian influences. Think Tiradito punched up with cilantro and Peruvian chili paste. In addition to sushi, the menu is divided into cold and hot sections meant to be shared. Lipson calls it “the only way” to dine at the establishment. Classic Nobu dishes such as Black Cod with Miso are international menu mainstays, but as soon as Chef Eudy Camilo Cruz gets his footing he will incorporate more local produce, meats and oysters.When ordering don’t skip the lobster tempura or the New Style Salmon Sashimi gently seared with piping hot yuzu soy sauce and sesame oil. Cocktails employ fresh ingredients like passion fruit, lychee and shiso.

Star gazing and sushi noshing aside, there is a signature hospitality that underpins the operation and makes splurging on an expensive meal at Nobu worth it.“It takes an army to serve our clients in the proper Nobu way,” Lipson says. You feel it when you walk through the door and a chorus of staff sings out the Japanese welcome “Irasshaimase!”

Nobu 2525 M Street NW 202-871-6565

This article appeared in the October 2017 issue of Washington Life magazine. 

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