Nobu Malibu is one of those restaurants that has a mystique all its own — the incomparable food, the jaw-dropping oceanfront setting, and the A-lister clientele infuse every visit with a dreamy, starry quality. This luxurious seaside sushi destination, which blends Japanese cuisine with Peruvian influences, is a favorite among discerning diners in the greater L.A. area. You'll feel like a celebrity, too; under chef Nobu Matsuhisa's guidance, the expert staff delivers five-star service. And while trendy restaurants don't always live up to their reputations, Nobu Malibu exceeded all my expectations.
Nobu Malibu is an exclusive, in-demand spot, which means that getting a table is notoriously hard. (It took me nearly six months to get in!) You can only make a reservation over the phone, and you have to call between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. — call right away in the morning to have the best chance. Remember that the restaurant only takes bookings up to 1 month in advance. Here's a tip: if you don't get the date you want, join the waitlist on the Nobu website. They'll let you know if a spot opens up.
From the day it opened in 2012, Nobu Malibu has been one of the hottest spots in town. It's a culinary triumph, thanks to chef Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa's signature Japanese/Peruvian cuisine. One of the things that drew me to Nobu was the chance to experience Matsuhisa's famous culinary philosophy: legendary service and unparalleled food. Nobu Malibu never compromises on either area, ensuring that you'll get an impeccable experience, every time. Celebrities and regular customers alike love the innovative, ever-changing menu, which features ultra-fresh fish and simple yet spectacular sushi.
My first — but definitely not last — experience at Nobu was overwhelming, in the best possible way. I followed Mastuhisa's recommendations: start with two or three cold dishes, and then try two or three hot options. Everything is served family style, so you and your dining companies can try a little of everything. Personally, I don't think you can go wrong with the omakase tasting menu, which is designed specifically for first-time diners. We also loved the sashimi tacos; the tuna and Wagyu were out of this world.
Nobu Malibu occupies a breathtaking spot overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I gasped when I walked in — the minimalist railings make the most of the expansive views, and the indoor-outdoor concept feels open and airy, no matter where you're sitting. The restaurant comes to life at sunset, when the entire patio is bathed in golden light; in this glow, it's hard not to feel like one of California's elite. The restaurant is right next to the Pacific Coast Highway, so it's relatively easy to reach from northern L.A.
Whether you're coming to Nobu Malibu for the first time or the fortieth, the restaurant's signature dishes are always worth ordering. The miso-marinated black cod is nothing short of a masterpiece — the richly textured fish and the perfect, savory-sweet miso glaze are a culinary experience you'll never forget. I loved the yellowtail jalapeño, which has a barely-there glaze; the jalapeño adds just the right pop of heat. Are you a seafood enthusiast? Don't miss the squid "pasta" with garlic sauce, which features squid pieces cut to look like noodles. No matter what you order, the fresh, high-quality ingredients ensure that every flavor comes through clearly.
A significant part of the Nobu Malibu menu is dedicated to a varied selection of sushi, nigiri, and sashimi — some of the best you'll ever taste, thanks to chef Matsuhisa's dedication to quality. At Nobu, the fish seems to melt in your mouth. The salmon sashimi is incredibly velvety and delicious, and the sushi maki are carefully prepared and beautifully presented. If you want something new, try the house special cut roll; it changes regularly.
If sushi isn't your thing, there are plenty of other options to choose from. I'd recommend the eggplant spicy miso and the crispy okra; it's made with garlic ponzu, and I guarantee you've never tasted anything like it. Many of the hot and cold dishes at Nobu showcase the restaurant's signature blend of traditions from Japan and Peru. The tiradito 'Nobu Style' is a Japanese-inspired twist on a traditional Peruvian dish, complete with cilantro and lemon juice. You can also try the wild Alaskan king salmon, which is served with Peruvian Rocoto chili.
"Omakase" is a Japanese word that translates to "I'll leave it up to you." In other words, you're trusting the chef to choose multiple courses for you. At Nobu Malibu, you can choose from two options: the Nobu Signature Menu omakase or the premium daily omakase. The former usually includes many of the restaurant's most famous dishes, including the miso black cod; the latter gives the chef complete creative freedom to experiment with seasonal ingredients or serve innovative new items. Each dish comes with an explanation, so it's a great way to learn more about the ingredients and inspiration.
The beverage menu at Nobu Malibu is almost as impressive as the food menu. You can get wine by the glass or bottle, of course, but what really stands out is the cocktail selection. I loved that they're separated by flavor profile. If "spicy and tart" sounds good, you might try the Mango Passion; in the "light, crisp, and refreshing section," you'll find the Sunset Spritzer and the Malibu Breeze. When it comes to sake, Nobu offers endless options. Pair a salmon dish with the Junmai Daiginjo Koshitanrei Hikari, or balance the spicy yellowtail jalapeño with the creamy Nobu TK40.
The Japanese-inspired interior of Nobu Malibu is refined and modern; the wood tones and understated neutral upholstery allow the food and the ocean view to take center stage. And even though it's elegant, Nobu doesn't feel stuffy or formal — something that's charmingly underscored by a shouted greeting from the sushi chefs as you walk in the door. After dark, candles and low lights give the restaurant and patio an impossibly romantic glow. The celebrity sightings add to the vibe; here, everyone seems a little bit famous.
Nobu is one of the most recognized restaurant names in the world; it's mentioned frequently in countless publications including The New York Times and Condé Nast Traveler. Even Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop raved about the restaurant, saying that "...the Malibu location, positioned on a bluff overlooking the ocean, is worth braving the hordes." Everyday diners agree, calling the food "unbelievable" and "out of this world."
Although Nobu's Malibu location opened 12 years ago, it remains a pillar of the local food scene. Celebrities, Hollywood executives, and the rich and famous all clamor for reservations — which, of course, adds to the hype. I love that the menu continues to evolve according to changing palettes and chef Matsuhisa's deep understanding of the industry. Though it's just one of 56 Nobu restaurants around the world, this spot holds its own in terms of food, service, and consistent popularity.
Want to host the ultimate party or event? You can book Nobu Malibu's cozy Private Fireplace Den for a small group or reserve the spectacular private dining room to take advantage of the spectacular ocean views. If you have a large group, call the restaurant up to three months in advance to ask about renting out the entire restaurant. No matter which event you choose, the culinary team can create a completely personalized menu and cocktail selection.
Sustainability is a key tenet of the operations at Nobu Malibu, which is critical for long-term viability. Chefs regularly use responsibly sourced seafood and fresh, locally sourced ingredients to minimize its impact on the environment. In addition, the restaurant uses Modular Wetlands stormwater biofilters to keep harmful substances out of the ocean ecosystem.
It took time to get a reservation at Nobu Malibu, but I'm glad I kept trying — the meal was one of the best of my life. Food and drinks aside, the ambiance of the restaurant is worth a visit alone; it's the epitome of relaxed California elegance. The celebrity sightings add to the fun! I'm already planning a repeat visit to explore more of the menu — perhaps I'll see you there.