First Taste: Nobu Los Angeles

Nobu Los Angeles

Over the past decade, the grandes dames of L.A. dining have been disappearing, one by one. L’Orangerie closed last year, and in its place is Nobu Los Angeles, with a garish purple-and-plank façade and an expanded patio that uses every inch of space to pack in sushi fanatics. Oddly, Nobu L.A. isn’t nearly as glamorous as the New York original; instead it feels like a larger Matsuhisa, which was chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s modest first restaurant (and which is just down the street).

It was there that the Japanese sushi chef attracted a Hollywood clientele with his creative take on the genre, expanding the palette of Japanese cuisine with jalapeño peppers, garlic, olive oil, and even butter. And it was there that Robert DeNiro first fell in love with Matsuhisa’s souped-up sushi and proposed helping him open a restaurant in New York.

Now, of course, Nobu is an icon and an international brand with restaurants all over the world (and according to recent reports, the original owners may soon be selling their controlling share), and this Nobu follows very much in the mold of all the others without breaking much new ground. The menu is basically made up of signature dishes: yellowtail sashimi with a kick of jalapeño; delicate miso-glazed black cod; the reliably crispy rock shrimp tempura; and squid pasta with a light garlic sauce. The brick-oven dishes include a sumptuous yellowtail collar, duck breast with wasabi salsa, and steak with summer truffles. And of course there’s all the sushi you can order and consume in one sitting. Everything is high quality and well executed, yet none of it is exciting as it once was.

If you go, try to get seated either in the main dining room or the once-famous retractable-roof room—left intact from the L’Orangerie days—which opens to reveal the sky overhead. But while reservations are taken one month in advance, you can walk into the bar and order a drink and a couple of the menu’s small dishes—definitely the best way to go, especially for a first visit.

Nobu Los Angeles 903 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, CA (310-657-5711;

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