D.C. Finally Has a Nobu, and It’s ‘Already the Most Pretentious Restaurant in Washington’

Sietsema says service sometimes felt like the “equivalent of a left swipe on Tinder.” Photo: Nobu Restaurants

Faraway places like Cape Town, Ibiza, Manila, and Dallas all have their own Nobus, but the nation’s capital has somehow been without one for 23 years. That changed a few weeks ago when the Kardashian’s favorite sushi chain opened its newest outpost in the city’s upscale West End. Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema has already reluctantly paid his visit, and it’s clear that the trouble he had getting a table didn’t do the high-end Japanese eatery any favors: Today’s review awards it 1.5 stars and serves up multiple burns, beginning with a headline that sums up his feelings pretty well: “At the 38th Iteration of Nobu, the Pretense Tastes Awful.”

He admits that the food can be “very good,” but in D.C. — which now has 14 Michelin-starred restaurants, as of yesterday — that isn’t a terribly high bar. It’s also one Sietsema argues that Nobu doesn’t always clear, like when it served him miso-glazed black cod. His server described it as “the dish that made Nobu famous,” but he prefers this economy of words for the $40 “vaguely sweet” slab of protein: “unforgivable.” He suggests the house specialty at Nobu should actually be “called obnoxious.”

“Shocks,” he adds, are “something of a theme.” For one, you eat the pricey food with disposable chopsticks. Another surprise: the loud cries of “Irasshaimase!” issued by cooks at the sushi counter while bad nightclub music thumps in the background. Sietsema also claims to be onto their shameless up-selling: “You may be asked ‘Still or sparkling?,’ as if local water isn’t an option, and offered shishito peppers and edamame as if they were gratis, only to later see them on the bill.” He guesses staff may work on commission, given their penchant for insta-clearing plates (“You might want to bring a (clean) fly swatter to dinner”), and the fact that at least one server hid the restaurant’s à la cart menu “behind his back.”

The pretension rap, though, comes mostly from the restaurant’s attempts to make itself appear at capacity. Sietsema writes that he was thwarted in his earliest attempts to make a reservation, so he showed up a few minutes before Nobu opened, only to find an empty restaurant. Even then, he says he was forced to sit in the bar’s lounge because so many tables were marked “reserved”; when he left two hours later, the majority were still vacant. After this review, that might be the case for a while

New Nobu Already Blasted As ‘Most Pretentious’ Spot in D.C.