After seven years of speculation, dozens of projected opening dates, and a groundbreaking in 2016 featuring Robert De Niro wearing a hardhat, Nobu Chicago opens its 11th floor rooftop bar on Wednesday off Randolph Restaurant Row. With social distance guidelines firmly in place, Wednesday also marks the hotel’s opening day.
Reservations are live for the rooftop which has a spread out layout for health and safety. Fans will still have to wait for the main restaurant. A news release only mentions that it will open at a later date. That’s probably wise, given the volatility in the industry due to COVID-19 and the various delays already associated with the Chicago project. The much-hyped upscale Japanese restaurant has been been a frequent member of Eater Chicago’s most anticipated lists.
Nobu is a collaboration between De Niro — one of Hollywood’s most venerable actors — chef Nobu Matsuhisa, and film producer and entrepreneur Meir Teper. The first Nobu restaurant opened in 1994 in New York. De Niro had fallen in love with Matsuhisa’s food served at his LA restaurant and courted him for an East Coast project. The Malibu, California location is a trendy spot featuring ocean views and celebrity sightings. The brand has expanded with the opening of the first Nobu hotel in 2013 inside Caesars Palace Las Vegas. Other locations include Manila, Barcelona, and London. Other Nobu hotels in the pipeline include Tel Aviv, Atlanta, and Toronto, according to a news release.
The Chicago rooftop will give visitors an idea of Nobu’s fare which mixes Japanese and Peruvian flavors. Small plates include nori tacos, black cod lettuce cups, and skewered Kushiyaki. Sushi will also be available. Wines, Champagne, and cocktails will also be served. Signature drinks include Nobu Sidecar with Iwai Tradition blended Japanese Whisky, Yuzu & Torres Magdala, and the Chi-Town Cooler (El Dorado three-year rum, Plantation pineapple rum, Campari, Demerara sugar, pineapple, and yuzu).
Management recommends reservations. It helps control the flow of customers which is essential during the pandemic. The rooftop’s website highlights some of the safety protocols including QR codes for menus, masks for employees, and the disinfecting of guests areas every 30 minutes.
Nobu joins a few other rooftop bars in the West Loop and Fulton Market area including inside the Ace Hotel and Cabra at the Hoxton Hotel. The Ace’s rooftop remains closed during the pandemic. At Nobu, the rooftop will also host DJs and concerts in the summer months. This week, DJ Akib will perform every night.
While Chicago still is waiting for Nobu’s main course to debut, the city will accept an appetizer this upcoming holiday weekend. The Rooftop at Nobu opens Wednesday afternoon.