Nobu, the glitzy sushi restaurant that’s a celebrity magnet in LA, is finally opening its Chicago location. Delayed for six years — with several projected opening dates rescheduled in between — the restaurant will now debut during a pandemic. The opening takes place Thursday inside the Nobu Hotel in West Loop. Nobu’s staff got rolling when it opened its rooftop bar in July with the rest of the hotel.
The chain debuted in 1994 in New York after De Niro took a liking to chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s cuisine. A Malibu, California location has become popular for Hollywood star gazing. Now there’s more than 40 across the world. But, as the Tribune — which first reported the opening date — points out, this is Nobu’s first outlet in the Midwest.
Matsuhisa tells the Tribune that diners shouldn’t expect new dishes. Meat lovers will get to feast on a collection of Japanese A5 Wagyu. Folks into that type of fancy and marbled beef would be wise to walk a few blocks west to Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ to compare prices and quality.
Nobu brought on Studio K’s Karen Herold, a favorite among Chicago restaurant designers, to work on the restaurant. Design highlights include a stone sushi bar under the mezzanine, a lounge, and two private dining rooms.
A 100-seat patio won’t open until next year, according to a news release. Previous renderings showed large windows opened to the sidewalk to increase air flow. That’s a critical factor in safe dining. Health experts remain lukewarm at best about indoor dining during the pandemic. Matsuhisa tells the Tribune that they’re taking the threat seriously. The restaurant’s website lists the precautions staff will take, It’s the same set of guidelines that was included when the rooftop bar open over the summer.
When Nobu announced its plans for Chicago, the city’s dining landscape was much different. There was a void for upscale Japanese restaurants. That’s not as large of a concern anymore as Michelin bestowed honors to restaurants like Mako, Yugen, Omakase Yume, and Kiko in 2020. Gaijin and Kyoten also show that the city’s options have grown.
But none of those restaurants have De Niro as a backer. Nobu has generated a unique buzz since De Niro and company announced the Chicago location in 2014. The wait is finally over on Thursday. Reservations will be available via OpenTable.