Juicy Restaurant Secrets from a Nobu Maitre D’
Including the best time to call for a last-minute reservation.
If you’ve ever dined at Nobu, you know the attention to detail on the menu is only paralleled by the attention given to the service. Part of that is necessity: With J-Lo and A-Rod dropping by on a dime, you have to be prepared.
One writer at Bloomberg was invited to a 10-day residency as maitre d’ at Nobu Fifty Seven in Midtown NYC and Nobu Downtown. Though the position is usually offered to those who have served the international company for 10 years or longer, Brandon Presser (who has also tried stints as a flight attendant for Norwegian and a butler at the Plaza, among others) had quite a time moonlighting for the front of house—and went on to spill the beans.
Though he revealed lots of saucy secrets about celebrities and their eating habits, perhaps one of the best gems applies to mere mortals who might actually just be, you know, looking for a reservation. Apparently, last-minute reservations can be snagged at around 4:00 PM the day before you hope to drop by. By then, late cancellations have been logged, but last-minute celebrities haven’t booked their tables yet.
Celebs who like to call in the eleventh hour for a table include Drake, the Kardashians, and Martha Stewart. They usually call same-day, in the late afternoon, so that fewer people know they’re coming in advance (ostensibly to minimize the chance of causing a scene). And they’re not the only ones who feel entitled to a table at the drop of a hat. “It’s not uncommon for a pro athlete to request a last-minute 15-seater after a basketball game,” Presser writes.
Of course, amidst a three-ring celebrity circus, a lot can go wrong—and right, sometimes at the same time. “Once, a famous recording artist with a reservation for 15 arrived with a party of 30 and stayed well past closing,” Presser writes. Anyone who has ever worked in the service industry can attest that this is every staff member’s worst nightmare. “All was forgiven when, at 1:30 AM, he serenaded the staff.” The real question is: Who was it? Our money is on Drake. We bet he left a big tip, too.
Speaking of tips, one legendary night downtown happened “more than six months ago” when a “high-profile chief executive” dining with six friends, including an A-list actress and a model, left an extra $22,000 on an $8,000 bill. The tip was split among everyone working that evening, and we’re guessing that man will always be welcomed back with open arms.
But it’s not all thousand-dollar tips and Drake serenades. Swearing at a staff member, or touching someone inappropriately, results in a permanent ban. Though Nobu keeps their blacklist discreet, billionaire Stewart Rahr once sent an outraged email about his exclusion to management, copying Leonardo DiCaprio, Alicia Keys, and others. That’s…one way to handle things.
Though New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude, everyone who lives here knows that is simply not so. And true to form, “The New York City clients are largely the best-behaved,” says Jad Marouche, beverage manager at both NYC Nobus.
What may come as a shock is that even the super high-quality sushi at Nobu has been flash-frozen before it hits your plate. Same for all of the sushi you order in NYC: The FDA strongly recommends all sushi, sashimi, and other raw fish should be frozen first, and NYC has made that practice a law. (Who knew?!)
Of course, because everything is over-the-top at Nobu, “frozen” means “a medical-grade fridge that flash-freezes the product at -90 C.” As Matt Hoyle, the executive chef at both New York Nobus, puts it, “We’re using the same freezer hospitals have to keep blood, so the fish cells don’t break down upon defrosting.” If you’re in search of kisu (Japanese whiting) or tobiuo (flying fish), go on a Tuesday or Wednesday, when they generally arrive. Premium cuts come on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Make a calendar alert to call Nobu next Tuesday at 4:00 PM for a reservation now.
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