Nobu’s Offspring Still Know How to Party
There was a time when there was only one Nobu, on Hudson Street in TriBeCa. When it opened in 1994, it was the first restaurant outside Los Angeles to offer Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s startling new liaison of sushi and other Japanese food with Peruvian flavors. The herds of imitators were still to come.
If you wanted to try raw yellowtail in ponzu under a green jalapeño wheel, or fried rock shrimp shimmering with spiced mayonnaise, or broiled black cod in miso so sweet it might have been maple syrup — and for a few years it seemed as if that was all anybody wanted — you either went to Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills, Calif., or you went to Hudson Street.
Now you can eat Nobu ceviche in Dubai, Budapest and Cape Town. If you want Nobu sashimi salad for dinner followed by a night in a Nobu hotel, you can do that in Marbella, Manila, Miami or Palo Alto. When the United States Space Force establishes its first lunar base, the generals and majors will no doubt find a Nobu there, with tuna tataki on the menu and a line three-deep at the bar.
This is because after the success of Nobu in TriBeCa, Mr. Matsuhisa and his partners made a strategic decision. The food would stay roughly the same — more on this in a minute — but the surroundings would grow bigger, boozier, louder, more theatrical. If Nobu did not exactly invent the Asian Party Temple restaurant genre, it certainly drew the blueprints.
At these new Nobus, Mr. Matsuhisa’s food was still a major event, but not necessarily the main event. And the question was not just whether you felt like eating at Nobu but whether you felt like being at Nobu. The Malibu location in particular has a reputation for intense good-time vibes that can drive away customers who merely want to eat.
All this was encapsulated for me in two brief scenes from my recent meals at Nobu Downtown and Nobu Fifty Seven. The first episode took place while I was sitting at the sushi bar of Nobu Downtown. This location, inside the old AT&T tower on Lower Broadway, is theoretically the successor to the first Nobu; it opened last year a few weeks after the original closed. The sushi bar was the heart of the TriBeCa restaurant. The chefs behind it prepared or touched at least half the food, and seats there were so coveted that during the 1990s, when even celebrities complained about how hard it was to get in, a mostly sushi restaurant called Next Door Nobu was opened simply to contain the overflow. (It closed last year, too, and won’t be replaced.)
这一切都浓缩在我最近在纽约Nobu下城店和Nobu 57吃饭的两个简短场景中。第一个场景是我坐在Nobu下城店的寿司吧前。这家店位于下百老汇老AT&T大厦里，理论上是第二家Nobu餐厅；去年，在最初的Nobu关门几周后，它就开张了。寿司吧是翠贝卡店的中心，至少一般的菜品是吧台后的厨师们制备或经手的。那里的座位是如此炙手可热，以至于在上世纪90年代，连名人们都抱怨很难进去。当时开了一家以寿司为主的餐厅“隔壁Nobu”(Next Door Nobu)，就为了分流应付不过来的顾客。（此店去年也关门了，不会有新址。)
At Nobu Downtown, the upstairs sushi counter is on the far side of the cocktail bar that the design firm Rockwell Group slipped in among the enormous fluted limestone columns that fill the building’s ground floor like a petrified forest. I had just eaten a piece of Japanese scallop sushi with a dangerous streak of wasabi when an animated group of four new arrivals appeared next to me. The sushi chefs eyed them warily, because they appeared to intend to cluster around a single stool, the way people do at a bar. Soon it became apparent that they thought they were at the bar. But the people they mistook for bartenders were all busy slicing raw fish, so eventually the group moved on to look for somebody to make them a drink.
Moments like this didn’t tend to happen at the original Nobu, but they do bring Nobu Downtown in line with Nobu Fifty Seven. In business on 57th Street since 2005, Nobu Fifty Seven is another two-story proposition. Between 5 and 7 p.m. its ground-floor lounge acts on young Midtown professionals like the fishing nets evoked by Rockwell Group’s design. At the time the second scene took place, the bartenders looked as if they were struggling not to get caught. My cocktail, a Negroni-esque thing with sake in it that was ferried to my upstairs table from the downstairs bar, was neither shaken nor stirred; it was, in fact, almost hot.
在最早那家Nobu通常不会出现这样的时刻，但是在纽约Nobu下城店和Nobu 57确实会。两层楼的Nobu 57从2005年开始在57街营业。下午5点到7点之间，它的一楼大堂对于中城的年轻白领来说就像渔网一样——罗克韦尔对这家店的设计也令人想起渔网。到第二波客人进店时，酒保们看起来好像在努力不被客人抓到。我的鸡尾酒是种类似尼克罗尼(Negroni)的东西，里面有清酒，从楼下的吧台被送到我楼上的桌子上。它既没有摇，也没搅；事实上，酒几乎是烫的。
While I was waiting for the cocktail to be cooled by its single ice cube, a server was struggling to open a bottle of Champagne for a table of at least 10 men next to me. When the cork came out, he managed to spray the room in a manner usually seen in the Super Bowl champions’ locker room. Everybody nearby got a little wet, including me and my guests, but nobody seemed to notice.
Servers at both addresses have the brisk, well-drilled, impersonal and slightly numbed quality that comes of waiting on hundreds of people a day. At Nobu Fifty-Seven, one told me, “Our menu is kaiseki style, so it’s like tapas. Everything is meant for sharing.” I must have looked confused because he added, “Some dishes are going to be bigger than others.”
Nobu Fifty-Seven was given three stars in its last New York Times review, by Frank Bruni in 2005. That’s what Ruth Reichl gave the original in 1995. After three recent visits to each location, I decided that, apart from minor menu variations, any qualitative difference in the food between the two branches is too subtle for me to make out.
上一次《纽约时报》点评Nobu 57时，弗兰克·布鲁尼(Frank Bruni)给了它三星。1995年时，露丝·雷克尔(Ruth Reichl)也给了第一家Nobu餐厅同样的分数。在最近去了每家分店各三次后，我认为，除了小的菜单变化，我看不出两家分店在食物上任何质的区别。
The chefs uptown are Taku Sato and Matt Hoyle. Downtown was led by Ricky Estrellado and Ryo Hasegawa until June, when Mr. Estrellado died suddenly. His successor has not been named. Both kitchens are models of superior ingredient shopping and consistent performance. When those classic Nobu dishes appear, they will be exactly like the last time you had them. In the case of the mayo-bathed fried shrimp, that may not be an entirely good thing. And I still think the flavor of the caviar that crowns tuna, or salmon, or yellowtail tartare gets elbowed out of the way by the wasabi-soy sauce.
在上城的厨师是卓江佐藤（Taku Sato，音）和麦特·霍伊尔(Matt Hoyle)。下城店之前是由里奇·埃斯特雷拉多(Ricky Estrellado)和长谷川亮(Ryo Hasegawa)主管，但埃斯特雷拉多在6月突然去世。他的继任者尚未公布。这两个厨房都是高档食材采购和一贯优秀表现的典范。当那些Nobu招牌菜出现的时候，它们会和你上次吃的一模一样。对于沾满蛋黄酱的炸虾来说，这可能不完全是一件好事。我仍然认为金枪鱼、鲑鱼或黄尾鞑靼鱼子酱的味道会被山葵酱油盖过。
But the tiradito, slices of yellowtail squirted with lemon and yuzu juice, then dotted with puréed rocoto pepper, is always wonderfully bracing. The candylike black cod is as hard to deny as ever, even if the extra sweetening Mr. Matsuhisa gives this traditional Japanese dish strikes me as somewhat shameless. The sashimi salad and the lobster shiitake salads are both better than any salad from a global chain has the right to be.
I don’t know who orders the dishes marked Nobu Now, but I tried a few. Umami Chilean sea bass: not worth it, even for the slightly exotic return of a fish that hasn’t been seen much since the ’90s. Kumamoto shooters: a thrilling series of flavors that will recall the way you felt the first time you ate at Nobu. Michele Goldsmith’s desserts, served both uptown and downtown, are modern and playful and don’t try too hard to follow the theme, whatever that is.
Over the years, the Hudson Street Nobu became something unusual, a restaurant that could serve tourists and families from around the corner with equal aplomb. But a meal at Nobu is still among the best, although not the cheapest, ways to introduce children to raw fish. And sitting at the sushi bar can still provide the intimacy that the rest of the place lacks. The chefs behind the counter may not draw the kinmedai cultists who flock to Sushi Zo or Sushi Ginza Onodera, but they know what they’re doing, and they light up when they get a customer who can tell.
多年来，哈德逊街的Nobu店成了一个不寻常的地方，一个可以用同样泰然自若的态度接待游客和街坊四邻的餐厅。但在Nobu吃饭仍然是最好的选择之一，虽然这不是让孩子们初尝鱼生的最便宜的方式。在寿司吧吃饭仍然可以提供其他地方所缺乏的亲密感。吧台后面的厨师可能不会像Sushi Zo或Sushi Ginza Onodera那样，吸引着专程来吃金目鲷的小众爱好者，但他们是在行的，当他们见到一个认得的顾客时，总会格外欣喜。