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Everything's Zen

BY Nevin Martell | November 1, 2017 | Feature Features

Nobu finally arrives in DC's West End and reminds us why timeless food is magic.
Mango-passion fruitcake

PERCHED IN THE District’s West End neighborhood, Nobu has an understated facade that belies its star status. It’s the latest outpost in a globe-spanning restaurant empire that began in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood more than 20 years ago and now boasts locations in such far-flung spots as Budapest, Hungary; Milan; and Mexico City. Founding chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa—known simply as Nobu—won’t be in residence, so executive chef Eudy Cruz is in charge of the exceptional kitchen, along with executive sushi chef Sung Cho.

The svelte space emphasizes straight lines, symmetry and sharp corners. Square and rectangular light boxes that seem to hover by the ceiling add a sepia tone, which complements a color scheme heavy on rich creams, inviting browns and wheat-colored woods. A service staff dressed mostly in black smoothly zips through the 11,000-square-foot, 250-seat (12 at the sushi bar, 14 at the cocktail bar) space.

The beverage team aims to have the largest Japanese whiskey selection in the area. As soon as their allotment arrives, they will be barrel-aging Kikori, a Japanese rice whiskey. Alongside the usual suspects—Kirin, Sapporo and Asahi—the beer list features some lesser-known labels from Japan’s craft beer scene, including Iwate Kura’s mildly herbaceous Sansho ale and Oze No Yukidoke’s IPA. The cocktail list is short, highlighted by the house’s signature cocktail, 25th & M, a play on a New York sour with muddled dill and orange, reposado tequila and a cabernet float.

Meals begin with a cleansing hand towel to create a symbolic tabula rasa. The restaurant’s opening menu is packed with classics and proven favorites from other locations, though the team plans to add items unique to DC over time. There are no extraneous ingredients in these dishes. The cooking team prizes simplicity, prime ingredients and a refreshing directness.

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