LA Matsuhisa: Nobu's first restaurant continues to impress in Beverly Hills
Nobuyuki Matsuhisa known as Nobu is a legend of the modern Japanese cooking worldwide. His partnership with an actor Robert De Niro and restaurateur Drew Nieporent gave birth to the famous global network of Nobu restaurants known for the chic atmosphere and innovative cuisine. LA Matsuhisa was the founding block of the entire Nobu empire.
Matsuhisa in LA was and still is his most cherished baby. He and his wife greet the guests and look after the kitchen on most of the nights. The only other restaurant that is as good as this LA firstborn is Matsuhisa in Aspen, Colorado. Nobu has influenced hundreds if not indirectly thousands of chefs globally – from Paris and Prague to New York.
His innovative and tasty food has been copied across all continents at numerous restaurants. During each trip to LA (three times per year between 2011-17) I eat at “Matsu” so I know the staples and could closely observe how the menu has evolved.
I must elevate the New style sashimi such as the ‘White Fish New Style’ or ‘Salmon New Style’ as the must try if you have never had them before. The White Fish New Style sashimi tends to be a seabass, but it can be changed for any white seasonal fish. It is served like the salmon simply with lime, chives, white sesame and oil sauce. These are some of the Nobu’s signature dishes.
Another all time favourite is the Salmon tartare with caviar that just melts on you palate like an ice cream on a hot day. The Sashimi tacos are fun, light and crispy. The raw crab, tuna and beef strike my palate the most. The Ceviche (raw fish diced in cubes and served with a lime-based sauce) and Tiradito (thinly sliced sashimi-style dish with spicy sauce) came from Nobu’s Peruvian era, when he worked as a chef in Lima with Toshiro Konishi, whom I interviewed. His Rock shrimp tempura (fried shrimps with a mayonnaise-based sauce) beats most of his imitating competitors. Crisp yet juicy and the sauce is so creamy and tasty that one roars for a glass of an intense white wine in the realm of an oaky California Chardonnay. The King crab tempura with Amazu jalapeno again stretches far beyond the boundaries of a single country’s cuisine. Mexico meets Japan in this refreshing crispy snack.
Generally, I would advise to order the Nobu Matsuhisa’s special dishes rather than omakase or simple sashimi and sushi as these you can get these elsewhere (and better). His mastery of mixing ingredients and creating unforgettable combinations will charm the palate of any discerning food connoisseur. If you are not concerned about how much you spend try the Baby abalone with light garlic sauce. For Westerners unusual, abalone is a seafood so tender and tasty, that you might expand your ‘top five’ list of your preferred seafood.
Daily, there are special dishes scribbled on a white board surfing through the restaurant as the waiters bring it to the inquisitive diners. Go for at least one of these. Once we got the steamy hot Tofu mascarpone and it was a spot on since I have never had a more tasty hot tofu dish. Combining an Italian staple ingredient with an Asian variation plant-based cheese aka tofu, was a daring step, but it works!
It is rare to find something at least not good enough at the LA Matsuhisa. So far, I was disappointed only once by the Mushroom Toban-yaki, the mushrooms cooked in a sizzling sauce, that I normally love at all of the Nobu restaurants. The mushrooms were not cooked enough so they did not absorb the savoury sauce that makes the dish to be excellent.
The desserts are also very tempting. I love the Green tea shaved ice and the Japanese Mochi. Mochi is like an ice cream-filled cold dumpling. Flavours from mango to green tea are wrapped in a chewy rice dough with a neutral taste so it does not disturb the flavors of the ice cream inside. It is refreshing treat to end a great multi-course dinner at LA Matsuhisa.
Drinks: Good wine, sake and beer list. They make also cocktails with sake if you fancy. Nobu’s Japanese green tea is refreshing with vegetal flavours typical for the Japanese teas. It is also sold in a tin box with Nobu’s face on it. We usually select the California-rich Chardonnay made exclusively for Nobu or Kistler and Far Niente. The in-house sommelier, who has worked at LA Matsuhisa since the beginning shared in an interview that Nobu’s food goes very well with the French Alsatian Pinot Gris, Riesling or Gewurtztraminer.
There was one surprising drink on the list – a glass of milk, but it is quite common in Japan to offer milk at a restaurant so Nobu simply sticks to his home country custom.
The restaurant is very casual and comfortable. You can wear anything from jeans and sneakers to an evening cocktail dress as various styles blend together here. Forget about the who-is-who scene though as dining at Matsuhisa is all about enjoying great food. What is particularly desirable about this LA restaurant is the loyal service. Most of the waiters were working there for many years, and perhaps that is why the LA Matsuhisa staff is very friendly and if you are a regular they will treat you like their beloved neighbour.
+1 310 659 9639
Mon-Fri for lunch 11:45am-2:15pm; Mon-Sun for dinner 5:45pm-10:15pm.