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Nov 10, 1999 12:48 PM

Calling Nobu is easy. Getting an answer...?

  • d

I'm beginning to think Nobu is just another Rao's, where you can't get in unless a regular dies. Except that, when you call Rao's, a person answers and turns down your request. I want to take my husband to Nobu, with a few friends, for his birthday on Monday and I've been calling for two days, every 10 minutes, to no avail. Before 10:00am, you get a message telling you to call at 10:00am and, as of 10:00:01am, the phone is busy. Short of getting in a cab tonight and going down there to actually get in someone's face, I can't figure out how to make a reservation. Is there a trick? Anyone have any advice?

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  1. Unless you get really lucky and catch a cancellation, Monday is likely to be fully booked. I don't have answer on how to get through on the phone line apart from "redial" - my own feeling is to go somewhere else - there are so many great restaurants in the city, why deal with the aggravation.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Gini

      Actually, getting in a cab and showing up at six o'clock probably IS the best option. I've done it, and it works. Only problem is that they seat you at the sushi bar, which may not be festive enough for your husband's birthday. But if you don't mind, you can get the regular menu. Speaking of which, I think the only way to eat there is to order omakase. Set a price limit and let them go. Cause there's some terrific stuff there and some that's just so-so and if you ask the chef to choose you'll get mostly terrific.

      1. re: pete
        Jessica Shatan

        All you have to do is put the number on redial and keep trying for about 20 minutes (a little praying helps too).
        But Monday?! Nobu is in that echelon of restaurants where the res. is made 3--4 weeks in advance. This IS New York, after all, get with the program :-)
        And yes, there are many great places if you're not the redialing type. The beauty of NY being that you are never tied to some establishment, you can always take your biz elsewhere.
        P.S. Contrary to one poster's advice I bel;ive the SMALLER your party the EASIER it will be to accomodate you, not the reverse.

        1. re: Jessica Shatan

          Calling Nobu is basically personal record is 572 calls without getting through, although the restaurant usually has four--4!--people manning the reservation line at all times. But you can almost always get in for a late lunch, just by showing up. And Nobu Next Door, of course, serves exactly the same food, has the star sushi chef (Shin) and doesn't take reservations, so if you're willing to cool your heels for a while over an arak at Layla, where you will inevitably be sent, you can eat Nobu food without planning in advance.

    2. Dena if you can get a reservation for a table including myself, my wife, and my editor, we'll join your party. My wife has been having a #$%#$% of a time trying to get through as well.

      Just tell them we're from Softbank Inc, a HUGE Japanese company... maybe you can get in easier

      2 Replies
      1. re: Jason Perlow
        Russell Drecque

        "we'll join your party"

        lucky her

        1. re: Russell Drecque

          Whats wrong with offering to to join someone for dinner?

          I was thinking she might be able to get in easier if she had more people and booking it as a corporate reservation...

          And any excuse to meet Chowhounds for dinner is a good one!


      2. Get in a cab tonight and go down there to actually get in someone's face. Or you could always hire a singing telegramist to go in and do an attention-grabbing presentation for the maitre d'.

        But I'm with Gina...there's an awful lot of good food in NY, some cooked by underappreciated restaurateurs who desperately need the business.

        1. Well, my thanks to all who had something to say about my quest to reserve at Nobu. I don't deal well with rejection, so I decided to give up on Nobu. We're going to a restaurant where they answered the first time I called, after only two rings.
          By the way, Russell, as far as Rachel and Jason offering to join the party, hey, that's what parties are for!

          11 Replies
          1. re: Dena

            At Nobu's insane price levels and certainly at the same quality level I have heard Sushisei is supposed to be phenomenal. I understand that the executive sushi chef at Sushisei is licensed for fugu.

            What did you hear about Hasuhana?

            1. re: Jason Perlow

              Hatsuhana is an old favorite of ours. (It's where my husband had his first taste of sushi/sashimi many years ago.) I understand that the sushi chef we always used to ask for, Shin, is now at Nobu. Which is, I suppose, one of the big reasons we wanted to go there. They're a little pricey but, when the food is as good as theirs is, you don't quibble. The restaurant has no real atmosphere to speak of - two floors of blond wood tables and two sushi bars, plus a few tatami rooms. It's somewhat upscale, clean and quiet and the service has always been good. And, while they may not be as innovative as Nobu and some others, they can always be counted on for their consistency. And that's not a bad thing.

              1. re: Dena

                forget about getting a reservation at nobu. i've called that number at 3 am and it's busy. i used to have a secret number but now they don't accept reservations on that line anymore.

                for nobu-like food at anti-nobu prices, try sushi of gari on 78th and 1st, but you MUST order the omakase sushi. if i get time later today, i'll give you the details. went there last night and it was phenomenal.

                1. re: wonki

                  Please tell us more...
                  (Sushi of Gari - is that the name?, what did you get, etc.)

                  1. re: Brad

                    as i was leafing through the new edition of zagat (2000) (i know i know PARTY FOUL!), i couldn't help but notice in all caps SUSHI OF GARI with numbers that placed it pretty much at the top of the heap in terms of sushi joints in manhattan. now i know the merits of zagat have already been debated to death on these boards (death is an appropriate word for the outcome i think), but as this place was basically in my neighborhood (78th and 1st) and i'd never even heard of the place before, with those numbers i figured i had to try it. and let me tell you, i now have a new favorite place for sushi in manhattan (though i have yet to go to kurumazushi and a couple others).

                    gari's is a small place, packed, with a U-shaped sushi bar in the center, where it belongs. make your reservations now, folks, once word gets out, this place will make the lines at tomoe look like cigarette butts. inside the tiny sushi throne are four, count 'em, four sushi chefs dressed in navy blue with very serious looks on their faces. my guess is that the elder statesman of the bunch and the one with the sternest look on his face is gari.

                    we started with some edamame, and when they came out steamed to perfection, i knew this place was gonna be good. be careful when ordering: there's something on the menu called the chef's choice for $35 a person, but this is NOT the omakase. our waitress was nice enough to point this out and told us there are basically two menus, one for non-japanese and one for japanese. she then told us there's a true omakase available for between $40 and $50 per person, depending on what the chef made. we hesitated, but decided to just splurge a little. thank god.

                    the waitress asked us what percentages of sashimi and sushi we wanted, and also if there were any types of fish we didn't like. we said 30% sashimi/70% sushi and told her mackerel (yuck).

                    the sashimi came out first, and was okay, but nothing spectacular. some wonderfully fresh toro, some nice kumamoto oysters, but a really nasty giant clam chopped up with some bland brown sauce, and a couple other interesting chopped fish with some light sauces. my suggestion is you go with the 100% sushi option.

                    the sushi arrived and it was a sight to behold. thankfully, the waitress explained what everything was (though, unfortunately i can't remember them all) and i'll try my best to let you know what we had.

                    first was tuna with a tofu sauce. now before you go sticking your tongues out in disgust at the thought of tofu sauce (as we all did), let me assure you that it tastes nothing like you'd imagine. a healthy dollop lay on top of each piece, slightly fluffy but with a creamy yogurt-like consistency. simply delicious. the sauce was slightly reminiscent of sour cream, light and subtle, and a perfect match for the soft, fresh tuna. yum.

                    next up was salmon with fresh sliced tomato and just a little bit of red onion (i think they were red, i didn't see them, but definitely onions) and a touch of white sauce (quite possible the same tofu sauce). kind of reminded me of bagels with cream cheese, lox, tomato and onion, but bite size without the bagel and just awesome.

                    in another corner was seared fatty tuna. at first i was a bit disappointed and apprehensive since toro is my favorite piece of sushi and i thought it almost sacreligious to cook it, especially since i'm not a big fan of seared tuna, but once i put it in my mouth all misgivings disappeared. this stuff was like kobe steak tuna - seared to perfection, warm and melt in your mouth delicious. damn, i want some more.

                    please note that all of these things were eaten without soy sauce, and that practically everything was designed to be eaten that way. the more traditional sushi pieces were an amazing japanese yellowtail lightly braised in a soy glaze and fresh fluke with a dot of plum sauce on top.

                    there were two rolls - a very good fried oyster roll, and one with salmon roe, cucumber and shiso leaf to give it some edge. both excellent.

                    finally, there was a piece wrapped in seaweed with something cooked and marinated inside - similar to unagi but not. in any case, it was soulful and scrumptuous. we pointed to the puddles of oil which marked its spot on the tray when the waitress came by but she couldn't remember what it was. oh well, next time.

                    something tells me i'm leaving something out, but i think i got most of it. for sushi aficionados, pieces were perfectly sized, none of that yama obscenity, and the sushi rice was perfect, just the right amount of vinegar, stickiness, temperature and flavor. the amount was just enough so that we were full without being stuffed and very very satisfied, believe me, all three of us.

                    and to top it all off, they've got really good green tea ice cream there.

                    the bill ended up being just over $55 a person for the omakase, a little more than the 40-50 quoted but still nevertheless worth it and in my opinion would cost way more at nobu for similar creativity and from what i'm told at kurumazushi as well. i must say i almost pitied those seated around us eating plain old sushi, which i'm sure was very fresh and good, but just not the eye-opening experience the omakase was for us. trust me, spend a little more and get the omakase here - you may never think of sushi the same way - i don't, and i'll see you there.


                    1. re: wonki

                      Glad you liked Sushi of Gari, Wonki. Gari has been there for a few years now - he used to be at Eisay, a little known place that caters to Japanese bankers on Thames St. near the World Trade Center. I patronized him for many years before he opened his own place. He has been in the sushi business for over thirty years (and if you ever see him cut an avocado with a double-edged knife, you won't doubt his claim!)

                      You are right, omakase is the only way to go, especially if you sit at the bar. My own experience at Sushi of Gari was similar to yours - at first. Although I love Gari, I find some things about his place less than optimal - the price at the bar can escalate tremendously - I've paid upwards of $100 a head if you have cold sake and eat lots of the good stuff. Similar quality/quantity at Sushiden or Eisay would run much less. The staff sometimes incompetent too strong? And the crowd - hoo boy, I could ignore everything else, but it appears that if you live in NYC and are a rude idiot, you end up at Sushi of Gari. I once saw Gari make a GORGEOUS sashimi platter for a foursome, which the waitress presented. Their comment? "Yo, Gari, whudabout the eel I asked for?"

                      But Gari's ability to turn out amazing fish remains consistent, and he leaves a trail of dedicated customers and trainees wherever he goes. I highly recommend Eisay downtown if you liked Sushi of Gari. Make reservations for an early dinner at Gari to avoid the crowds/idiots. Dinner at Eisay is much easier - they boom at lunch (bar reservations required), but dinner is usually quiet, where you can enjoy a nice conversation with one of the very friendly chefs - Soma-san or Masa-san.

                      1. re: wayne

                        thanks wayne. i noticed you mentioned gari in the best sushi places thread but didn't elaborate so i figured i'd let everyone know just what was up. our waitress was excellent, however, and i didn't notice any goons there though i'm sure i would have found that amusing. i've actually went to eisay a lot when i was working in 2 WTC but never ordered omakase as i was always there for lunch. what a shame. i doubt i'll go all the way down there again just for that. how about sushiden? is the omakase there similar to gari?


                        1. re: wonki


                          Sushiden has become a favorite of mine recently - I always ask for Aoki-san, a young chef who is very shy, yet knowledgeable and polite. The fish is great - all the "rare" (no pun intended) creatures that you don't always see at the more Americanied places - amaebi, albacore (white) tuna, beautiful uni, gorgeous toro, monkfish liver, and my old favorite natto (fermented soybean). Sushiden is alot like Hatsuhana and Sushisay - very competent pure Japanese sushi - no creative sauces or unusual rolls. For those, Gari is the best and Eisay not far behind.

                          What a shame you never sat at the bar! Eisay at a table PALES in comparison to the bar. My meals at tables there have been nothing special. But sit at the bar and close your eyes and you would fail a blind test test with Gari. The man worked there for so long, his sauces and recipes live on, but (and this is beautiful) they have been tweaked and interpreted by the latest generation of chefs. If you are ever downtown, worth a revisit!

              2. re: Jason Perlow

                Jason - where is Sushisei? As soon as I save up
                enough money, I really want to have some Fugu.

                1. re: christina z


                  38 E. 51st St. (bet. Madison & Park Aves.), New York, NY, 10022-6801 (212) 755-1780

                  according to that infamous restaurant guide which I am not allowed to mention here, its not as expensive as Nobu (48 bucks a persona vs 63 bucks a person) and its about on par in terms of price with HATSUHANA that Dena mentioned.

                  They rate it about at the same level of quality as Nobu, though.

                  1. re: Jason Perlow

                    Sushisay is a terrific Sushi Bar. As far as straight sushi, I think it is the best in the city. Koruma Zushi on 47th is also fantastic, yet unbelievably pricey and with zero atmosphere. Sushisay is a lot like Takesushi, one of the first "businessman's" sushi bars in New York. It is clean, sleek, and sterile. Nobu is wonderful for Omakase as someone else mentioned in this thread, but for the authentic piece by piece sushi, Sushisay is well worth a visit. They have two kinds of UNI Maine and California, have the California. They also make a softened squid sushi with lemon and sea salt which is out of this world. Enjoy!

            2. you have to call exactly 1 month in advance at around 10:15am -- they usually do not actually open the phonelines until 10:30am. you can go to nobu next dor w/o reservations, but expect hours of waiting time. Also, the reservations for the night one month ahead go in about an hour -- good luck.