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Jul 4, 2008 10:05 PM

Nobu or Matsuhisa?

Hello LA Hounders,

I'm from NY and have a birthday meal to call in, on my folks tab. I've never been to Nobu before (in NY or LA) and was wondering if anyone had advice on Matsuhisa v. Nobu LA? What's the difference between the two? Matsuhisa was his first restaurant, right? I wanted some inside knowledge as to which is better, relative cost, and the like.

Also, if anyone knows: how do they compare to Nobu in New York?


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  1. In a nutshell: go to Hiro Urasawa.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RicRios

      ...and if you cant do Urasawa then go to Sushi Zo. I used to be a fan of Matsuhisa but its not anywhere near one of the top sushi spots in LA any more (and i think Nobu is not as good as Matsuhisa).

    2. The difference between Matsuhisa and Nobu is that Japanese people work in Matsuhisa and it feels "more" like a small, independent Japanese restaurant. In Nobu, you usually only see Japanese people behind the sushi bar and the place feels more like an Americanized franchise. It's probably because of management. I believe Matsuhisa is wholly owned by Nobu Matsuhisa, while the Nobu chain is set up as a partnership with Robert De Niro and other people.

      The food is basically the same in all the places, only the decor and service differs. So if you have a Nobu in NY, why bother going to Nobu in LA? Try something here you don't have in NY such as Asanebo, Sushi Nozawa, Katsuya, Urasawa, Sushi Sasabune, etc.....

      5 Replies
      1. re: martiniman

        Martiniman describes the difference quite well but I disagree with some of his recommendations. Stay away from Nozawa as his fish quality is poor (used alot of frozen fish), Katsuya because it's very basterized (small percentage is good) suhi, Urasawa is too expensive even though they get the same fish from exact same fish vendors as others and Sasabune used to be better when it was smaller. I would recommend Nishimura in West Hollywood if not Sushi Zo.

        1. re: Eastcoast foods nob

          Eastcoast foods nob, you may be my long lost brother... except I would trash Sasabune as well. BTW, it's a brine that Nozawa and Sasabune use to get their flavor and perceived "freshness."

          1. re: cls

            I respectfully disagree with both of your comments about Sushi Nozawa. As you know, pretty much most fish used for sushi/sashimi is frozen at some point for parasite destruction, so generally all the restaurants out there are using "frozen fish". I also know from my Dad's friend who used to work at International Marine told me that Nozawa was always one of the first guys to be there in the morning. Not many sushi restaurant owners do this themselves, so I really respect that.

            All my Japanese friends seem to really like this place. So could you please explain to me about using brine to get this perceived "freshness"? I cannot comment about Sasabune's new location since I've only been to the original one. Thanks.

            1. re: martiniman

              Yes, basically all fish is frozen, generally flash frozen (it law in America.) Also, considering most fishing boats are not day boats, they have to do something with the fish before getting back to land.

              Nozawa and Sasabune use the same technique. Although I am not clear on the history, the owner of Sasabune used to work for Nozawa (so I am told.) Both restaurants, use apparently the same brine which serves to soften the fish and add a bit of flavor. This leads people to believe and commonly rave about the freshness at Nozawa but consider: there are a lot of first rate sushi chefs out there who also shop at International Marine, and Nozawa is not the only one who gets good fish. Furthermore, soft fish is not necessarily fresher and, in fact, soft fish may be older. The biology of Tuna, for example, requires a bit of age to break down the cells, soften it, and eliminate the gamey taste. The freshest fish tends to have a bit of bite to it.

              Nozawa's dishes are generally prepared in advance and stored in cold storage before serving. The plate in front of you is by no means the freshest around, but people continue to rave about how fresh it is because it's soft.

              This is not to say his fish is not good, and if you like it great. I prefer a "purer" taste and texture. Most people also do not know that sushi restaurants, even those who shop every day, store fish both frozen and defrosted so it's not unique to Nozawa.

              I do know plenty of sushi chefs who shop every day, it's not that rare. If you ever want to hear about Nozawa's technique from an expert, ask another sushi chef. I don't think you will hear many compliments...

              1. re: cls

                Did you ever see him using brine? That sounds strange and too noticeable to me. Anyways, the few times I've been there, Nozawa san cut the fish in front of me (always went when they opened). And the Uni I've had there was the best. You can't use Brine to "mask" Uni because of the color.

                I think it's very rare for a successful Sushi chef to go to the fish market daily these days (you don't see Matsuhisa do that). A lot of the ones that do aren't necessarily that knowledgeable or go out of necessity (cut costs, boss tells them, etc).

                Anyways, I've told my dad about some of these places and he is now curious. He says he may even know Nozawa (my dad used to be a Sushi Chef in Japan). I'll let you know what he thinks if he goes. Thanks for your reply.

      2. I haven't been to Nobu, but I really like Matsuhisa. But as you can see, it doesn't get a lot of love on this board. People on this board love Sushi Zo. Personally, I think Matsuhisa is more creative and more fun for an out-of-towner (decor is nothing special, but probability of a celebrity siting is fairly high), and I think that the service at Zo is unacceptably hostile (although many hounds will disagree with me on this). I haven't eaten at Nobu in New York either, but my New York friends have told me that both the L.A. locations are about a million times better than Nobu in New York. Actually, I've heard that even most decent local sushi places in L.A. are better than Nobu in New York, for a fraction of the price.

        1. It all depends on what you want:

          Nobu: Celeb central, hip crowd, food takes a second seat. Feels "franchised" ('cuz it is).

          Matsuhisa: Nobu Matsuhisa's original flagship, where his fortune was built. The food and service remain very very good, but the locale is a bit dated, and not as many celebs show up. Get their "specials" or the omakase options.

          At both places, do NOT expect old-fashioned Edo-style sushi. Nobu and Matsuhisa are Japanese restaurants by name; but in fact they are Peruvian-Japanese FUSION establishments.

          Can't compare Urasawa (Edo-style kappo sushi) & Matsuhisa (Peruvian-Japanese fusion), since they're apples & oranges.

          1. If you want good food, go to Matsuhisa.

            If you want a cool scene, go to Nobu.

            Never been to Nobu NYC ... sorry.