The casual, relaxed atmosphere of Nobu Miami. Nobu, a Michelin-star restaurant, is known for its … [+] laid-back attitude.
The pandemic has forced everyone to stay put this year, leaving travelers with an unsatisfied urge to experience something new in 2020. People around the globe are getting creative, finding ways to get out and about without traveling too far from home.
One interesting approach is to take some of your saved travel funds and put them towards a special-occasion-type experience, perhaps a private tour of a local museum, or having a private chef come into your home.
Or, maybe you could try that special restaurant you’ve been eyeing (within the safety protocols of your area, of course). Here in Miami, there are many restaurants that fit that bill, although few come with the backstory and prestige of Nobu Miami.
A world-wide brand known for adapting to its location, Nobu is a prime candidate for a special night on the town. So what can you expect, and what should you know before going to get the most out of it? Below, we put together a first-timers guide to Nobu Miami to help you navigate the experience.
Who/What is Nobu?
The original Nobu restaurant debuted in New York City in 1994 as a partnership between Nobu Matsuhisha, from whom the brand takes its name, and a guy by the name of Robert De Niro. Matsuhisha, originally from Japan, worked in Peru and Argentina before coming to the States.
Nobu Matsuhisha started Nobu Restaurants with help from Robert De Niro back in 1994.
As the story goes, De Niro ate at Matsuhisha’s restaurant in Los Angeles (called Matsuhisha) in 1987. The famous actor then approached the budding restaurateur, encouraging him to open a restaurant in De Niro’s hometown, New York City.
Flash forward, and the duo has gone on to open about 30 Nobu restaurants on five continents, as well as more than a dozen hotels under the Nobu brand. Nobu Miami is situated in the Nobu Hotel Miami Beach, part of the historic Eden Roc Miami Beach, which draws a mix of guests and locals.
What to Wear
Despite its worldwide success, Nobu has remained approachable in its image. Sure, you don’t want to show up in sweatpants, but there’s no reason to get carried away.
Simple evening attire will do in most cases, and some locations have rather flexible guidelines. Nobu Miami, for example, has an outdoor bar area with televisions that reflects the brands easy-going image.
“Nobu was groundbreaking when it opened because it was the first casual restaurant of its kind,” said Thomas Buckley, Corporate Chef at Nobu Miami. “People were shocked because it was a Michelin-Star restaurant without tablecloths. You have shared plates, chopsticks, and there’s no need for 20 different glasses. Nobu didn’t need to be flashy. The focus was on the food.”
What to Know Before Going
There are a couple things to know before going to Nobu for the first time.
The most important thing is that the menu breaks down into two main concepts – classic dishes and local specialties.
Classic dishes are those that have been with Nobu since the beginning, and that are, in part, responsible for making the brand what it is today. Those dishes include Miso-Marinated Black Cod, rock shrimp tempura, yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, and king crab tempura.
Miso-Marinated Black Cod, one of Nobu's most famous dishes.
The next wave of Nobu dishes, known as Nobu Now, are born out of regional flair. Each location is given the freedom to experiment with local ingredients and create dishes that pay homage to Nobu’s traditions while at the same time representing and embodying the destination.
Nobu Miami, for example, embraces Miami’s infamous stone crab season (October-May) and its dishes tend to reflect the city’s South American vibes with some added acidity and spice – which, as it turns out, works well with Matsuhisha’s experience in Peru and Argentina. Buckley says that Nobu takes great pride in using local ingredients, including fruits that he himself grows in his backyard.
Another thing of note is that many Nobus offer special promotions and a Tanoshi happy hour that make for a good, affordable introduction to the restaurant. At Nobu Miami, Tanoshi hour (everyday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.) features half-priced cocktails and a five-dish bento box, which includes a variety of classic dishes, for a reasonable $40.
Nobu Miami also has a teppanyaki table, which is not available at all Nobus.
What to Order Your First Visit
The experience of settling into your table and looking over the menu is a warm thought for restaurant goers (at least, back in the day when there were printed menus).
But, Buckley suggests forgoing that ritual in favor of simple trust. Nobu’s omakase menu – which translates to “trust us” – is designed for first timers in mind. Featuring seven classic Nobu dishes, the waiter will walk you through the history of Nobu, explaining each of its classic dishes and recommending sake pairings.
If you're not in mood for a tasting menu, Buckley still suggests letting your waiter call the shots.
“The waiters are taught the first day they are here how to read a table, depending on how many times they’ve been and the preferences of each guest,” Buckley said. “If a guest doesn’t want to commit to a tasting menu, we still advise them to trust the server to formulate the experience for them. Some dishes go together really well, and we try to compliment the flavors in the correct order. The menu is quite big, and it’s possible that you wouldn’t get the same experience if you navigate it yourself. In this way, we recommend letting the waiters help you choose your dishes ala carte.”
What to Order Your Second Visit
So, you’ve been once and enjoyed the experience. Now what? Is there a pressing reason to go back?
Buckley says that the second time at Nobu can be even more rewarding than the first, thanks to its many variations of the omakase menu.
Nobu is known for the simple yet colorful presentation of its dishes.
“Going back is like opening a different door,” Buckley said. “You have the first side of menu, and then you have the second side of menu.”
What’s on the second side? A deeper dive into Nobu’s evolving creative spirit, one might say. While the first visit will take care of the classics, a second (or third) visit will give you the chance to get acquainted with the Nobu Now lineup. It tends to be more experimental, with dishes coming and going based on seasonality. Buckley also recommends asking about the daily chef specials on repeat visits. They often take a backseat to the more popular classics, but reflect the latest inspirations of the chef.
Finally, Buckley humbly comes back to his main piece of advice: Trust. Unlike most restaurants, where the menu is what it is, there aren’t as many rules in place at Nobu. While the omakase menu is typically designed for first timers, second and third and fourth timers can make use of it again and again.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been,” Buckley said, referring to the fact that tasting menus at Nobu are always personalized table-to-table. “Omakase is designed to suit the guest. Be upfront about your dining history and preferences, then sit back and trust your waiter. It will open a whole new world of what’s available.”