New Houston Restaurant Nobu Has Finally Arrived At The Galleria
This past weekend, one of the world’s most recognized and luxurious sushi restaurants, Nobu (founded by renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa and celebrity Robert De Niro) finally opened the doors of its first — and, for now, only — Houston location. (In fact, it’s only the second Nobu in all of Texas; the other is in Dallas.) Nobu is at 5115 Westheimer in the former Saks Fifth Avenue in The Galleria. It joins the hot group of recent and forthcoming restaurants that includes Fig & Olive and soon-to-be open Musaafer by The Spice Route Company and Blanco Tacos + Tequila.
Nobu has over 40 locations across the world and it’s been a little over a year since the Galleria one was announced. To say that the opening was “eagerly anticipated” would be a gross understatement. On Saturday, it was a packed house. As of press time, reservations website Open Table has nothing available for parties of two or four before 9:15 pm until Monday, June 25.
(Calling might unearth some actual open tables — but definitely not for next Saturday. A staffer told us by phone that it’s totally booked.)
It can be as long as a three-hour wait for a table without a reservation. Service is also available in the bar and lounge areas on a first-come-first-serve basis. There is an ample patio but they’re not serving diners there just yet.
So, let’s cut to the chase: without an “in” or a preexisting reservation, diners who don’t like to wait on a table should let the buzz on Nobu die down to a dull roar. Opening service was also a little rocky due to the overload of enthusiastic diners. (It took 30 minutes just to get a check.) That’s despite a Nobu server saying the company brought in team members from all over the world to train local employees. The team includes chef Carl Murray, also of Dallas Nobu, chef Eiji Saito from the Caesar’s Palace location and general manager Gordon Gilbert, formerly of Nobu locations in the Caribbean and Vegas, and additional managers from other areas of the country.
Although we had ordered the Tuna Tataki, instead we received the New Style Sashimi Salmon for $24 along with some of their signature cocktails like the Nobu Sidecar with Iwai Japanese whiskey, Gran Torres Orange and yuzu juice for $14 (cocktail prices vary depending on the location and are currently not online for Nobu Houston). One cocktail each and the single salmon dish for a party of four at the bar was over $100.
That’s the second point: Nobu is not cheap. It never has been — so don’t ramble in expecting fast-casual sushi. That is not what this restaurant chain is all about. (To really experience Nobu’s finer touches — again — maybe hold off a month or so before going in.)
In addition to hot and cold dishes like the signature black cod with miso for $38 and the yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño for $27, Nobu has added some Houston-inspired elements to the menu. There’s an emphasis on locally sourced meat, fish and produce. Most notably, the whole grilled or tempura fish special was Gulf Coast wild red snapper and the grilled Wagyu served in a pot with truffle cabbage and cherry blossom smoke.
For those wanting to experience Nobu without completely breaking the bank, there is a daily happy hour from 5 to 6 p.m. in the bar lounge area only with a selection of cold, hot and sushi maki dishes all under $16 each (which still isn’t exactly cheap).
While Nobu is certainly in a class of its own, there’s more luxury Japanese fare in Houston than ever before. This weekend’s opening follows somewhat on the heels of award-winning Japanese sushi and steakhouse chain Roka Akor. Other notable competition includes famed Austin transplant Uchi Houston, James Beard-nominated chef Manabu “Hori” Horiuchi’s Kata Robata, a local favorite since 2009, MF Sushi in the Museum District and KUU on Houston’s West side ran by former Matsuhisa protégé Adison Lee.
Only time will tell if well-heeled Houstonians will continue to flock to Nobu once the buzz subsides.
Nobu Houston is located at 5115 Westheimer with dinner service Sundays through Thursdays from 6 to 10 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 11 p.m. with the bar and lounge opening one hour prior each day at 5 p.m.