Anyone who tells you that Nobu Malibu isn’t the best possible sushi experience you can have in California is lying. The top-notch ingredients, mix of traditional and innovative dishes, and off-menu delicacies—mixed with stunning oceanfront, compelling architecture, and stellar service —have made the restaurant an evergreen success since it made its home on Carbon Beach in 2012 (it spent 13 years before that tucked into a quiet corner of the Malibu Lumber Yard).
The Malibu gem has been greatly missed by Angelenos stuck in quarantine but is once again ready to welcome diners (the restaurant has been offering delivery and takeout, which it will continue to do until it can operate fully). Los Angeles County restrictions will allow for just 60% of its normal capacity, but don’t worry, the oceanfront tables, full menu, and well-trained staff are all back and just as great as you remember. The main changes to the restaurant include: limited walk-ins (guests with reservations must check in with security before being allowed past the valet; others will only be let in when space permits, which likely won’t be in the evenings); limited seats at the sushi bar; and the once packed, standing-room-only bar area is roped off.
However, snagging a table at the iconic venue is tougher than ever—unless you’re savvy enough to know about the Nobu Ryokan. The 16-room neighboring hotel is the passion project of owner Larry Ellison, who created this boutique hideaway as a sanctuary for a certain kind of guest. Understated, ultra-confidential, and keeping security and privacy in mind at all times, the property has become the to-go spot for high-level executives looking for a low-key spot to melt away. Unlike most hotels that allow you to book directly online, all bookings to the Ryokan are made by emailing the property and making an inquiry. Once the request is received, the team (there is a 6-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio) evaluates the request and works with the guest to ensure they are given a tailor-made experience suited to their unique needs.
Also, unlike other hotels, the property is only open to guests, making access extra elusive. The ultra-private accommodations feature Anichini linens, top-notch electronics, onsen-inspired bathrooms, and pieces from Ellison’s own collection of Japanese art and antiques. Landscaping was under the direction of Bruce Meeks, and the result is an oasis of calm and tranquility—the perfect antidote to the chaos of 2020.
A stay at the Ryokan is also your best bet at experiencing the new Nobu Malibu. Guests of the hotel have priority for tables at the restaurant (when booked in advance), where they can experience all of the famed restaurant’s delights. Pro tip: while everything on the menu is crave-worthy, and the favorites like miso-glazed black cod and lobster tacos are popular for a reason, regulars typically seek the Wagyu tacos, the king crab tempura amazu, and seabass mole. Off-menu, ask for the vegetarian or vegan options and the whole fresh fish of the day, which typically sells out before the night has begun. While the hotel does not have its own restaurant, room service is overseen by Nobu executive chef, Gregorio Stephenson, who has been with the brand since 1999.
With Nobu Malibu now open for business, and the Nobu Ryokan accepting reservations, this is the perfect escape we’ve all been desperately needing.