Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, known internationally for his blend of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines, has brought his mastery to Georgetown’s West End with the opening of Nobu D.C. in 2017. Although he has 38 restaurants located around the world, Nobu D.C. marks Matsuhisa’s first venture in the nation’s capital.
With comprehensive lunch, dinner and drink selections, Nobu D.C.’s menu satiates the desires of amateur and sophisticated sushi lovers alike. While its atmosphere, at times, suggests an overbearing desire to live up to Matsuhisa’s international acclaim, Nobu D.C. lives up to its reputation of delicious cuisine.
Located on the ground floor of the posh condo Residences on M Street, Nobu D.C. is a sophisticated dining destination in an upscale residential neighborhood. Inside, it feels like an exclusive club. Odd lighting and loud house music make cozy conversation nearly impossible, creating an atmosphere that is showy rather than intimate.
The restaurant’s noisiness is only worsened by overzealous staff and servers. The server interrupted our conversation several times to ask how we were doing or to attempt to sell us another dish we had not ordered. Additionally, our plates were taken away during momentary lulls before we had finished everything. Attentive service is always appreciated, but not when it is detrimental to the dining experience.
Fortunately, Nobu D.C.’s food compensates for these shortcomings. Its plentiful menu provides the opportunity to sample a large array of dishes — perfect for large parties. Most of the dishes consist of several pieces that can be divided among many people.
My party started with shishito peppers and edamame before moving onto salmon avocado rolls and spicy tuna rolls, which instantly made an impression. Compared to other chains, the sushi at Nobu D.C. stands out due to its supreme freshness. While soy sauce is usually necessary for sushi, at Nobu, the taste of the roll itself is strong enough to make you forget about any dipping sauce.
Next, my friend and I shared two plates of the spicy tuna with crispy rice, a dish that perfectly displays Matsuhisa’s quintessential Japanese-Peruvian fusion. Easily my favorite item of the night, it consisted of bite-sized cubes of fried sticky rice dipped in a spicy Peruvian sauce and topped with tuna tartar. The dish combined South American spice with fried rice and fish, creating a powerful and satisfying bite. As such a brilliant combination of flavor is hard to come by, it is easy to understand how Nobu earned its esteemed reputation.
We ended our meal with red miso short ribs and salmon nigiri and sashimi. The short ribs are compact squares of the most tender pork pulled from the rib and doused in red miso sauce. Like the spicy tuna and rice, they have a strong and spicy flavor that overwhelm in the best way possible. The salmon nigiri, served on rice, and sashimi, served without rice, impressed in the same way as the earlier sushi rolls. The freshness allowed us to taste the rolls’ subtler flavors, differentiating Nobu’s salmon slices from those found elsewhere.
While its service and atmosphere can be off-putting and uninviting at times, Nobu D.C. stays true to its reputation for delivering great food. Each bite provided interesting and unique flavors unlike those found at other well-known sushi places. The stark difference in taste justifies the difference in price between Nobu D.C. and the standard Japanese restaurant. It will be an expensive dinner, but it is a perfect spot for those who regularly enjoy sushi and seafood.