Nobu is the cult-like holy grail of sushi restaurants, complete with locations in every city in the world that matters, a hotel in Las Vegas and an upcoming sushi theme park in Dubai (maybe). I enjoyed their Japanese cuisine with Peruvian stylings at the LA location in West Hollywood.
Nobu has a full tapas menu ($6-15) nightly starting at 5:30, while you can get drink specials including $4 Sapporo, $6 wine and $9 Specialty Cocktails (normally $14) until 8pm. Their happy hour is unique for a high-end restaurant but not very well known; Nobu is not exactly the plastic-sign-out-front type of place and its online menu can be a bit confusing.
Upon arriving, Nobu's small entrance was being blocked by the valet tending to a Rolls Royce. Even the unpleasant moments of the visit are opulent. Nobu's bar and lounge area are walled off from the bustling dining area filled with important people. The dimly lit bar was not very crowded. The occasional older, professional type would briefly pass through. One gentleman came in, ordered a double shot of Johnny Walker Blue, paid $100 for it and departed, leaving me a bit disappointed that I wasn't able to make his acquaintance.
The service at Nobu, much like everything else, was top quality. All the tapas were brought out strategically, one by one and at the perfect temperature. The bartender made suggestions and altered drinks based on liquor preferences, and he didn't even know that I didn't arrive in a Rolls Royce.
Nobu offers its full, seventeen-item cocktail menu for $9 for happy hour, a discount from their normal $14+ prices. The standard Japanese flairs of lychee, sake and soju take their place next to South American classics Caipirinha and Pisco Sour. The other end of the spectrum finds mischievous combinations of sweet açai or coconut with spicy serrano peppers, giving you perhaps your first pucker-then-bite sensation. Expect the unexpected--the Mia Margarita comes out looking and tasting like a modified Screwdriver before the japanese shichimi chili on top sets in.
For the pleasure of trying these ridiculous flavors, you will be raised to the upper ceiling of happy hour pricing: $9. The drinks, while on the smaller side, do lend themselves to be sipped rather than chugged. They lack a good deal of strength; you will need to switch to the Johnny Walker Blue to be forgetting the car payment you are spending in one evening.
Eating off the tapas menu at Nobu will make you feel rich and poor, all at once. The food is otherworldly and fleeting. I would count myself about as big a fan of raw fish as I am of Nickelback, but after trying the signature Jalapeño Yellowtail and Albacore Truffle Dry Miso, I could probably belt out a chorus of "How You Remind Me." The fish tastes less of the sea and more a vessel to transport the added flavors, of which truffle was especially enjoyable. The cooked selections are equally transcendent: chicken wings that effortlessly fall off the bone and waygu dumplings that melt in your mouth.
The menu correctly classifies these items as "small plates." You will be lucky to get more than two bites if you are sharing. The prices considering these portions are comical, $9, $12 and $15, easily more than you will pay at any other happy hour for a fraction of the food. A value-driven happy hour denizen would be reduced to thinking "Should I stop by McDonald's on the way home to get dinner?" But, for a lover of food it becomes a pilgrimage of sorts at a discount.
Potential or Actual Kitschy Name for their Happy Hour: Nobu Matshuishappy Hour
Happy Hour: 5:30-8pm Daily
Drinks: Cocktails $9, Wine $6, Beer $4
Food: Japanese/Peruvian, $9-15
Parking: Metered spots on La Cienega and off Waring and Melrose Pl.