For a truly memorable night out with friends in New York, make your way to Nobu Next Door, the more casual sibling of the original Nobu. It’s the perfect place to go when your plans come together at the last minute, since it doesn’t require reservations. Tables are first-come, first-served between 7 and 9pm, but see if you can’t get your group there by 6:59 to take over the large round table near the front. That way, everybody’s an equal distance from all the different dishes you’re here to enjoy, because dinner at this Tribeca hot spot is all about sharing.
Start by sharing a sake like Nobu’s sublime jyunmai daiginjo, which is served in a pitcher fashioned from a living bamboo stalk with cute little bamboo cups. Raise a toast with a hearty kampai! (“dry cup”) and begin an unforgettable culinary adventure as you take in the rustic Asian decor, smartly-dressed crowd, and uptempo music. There’s not a clunker on the menu, but for anyone who’s never been to a Nobu before, the black cod with miso is essential. The cornerstone of Tokyo-born Nobu Matsuhisa’s culinary empire, the roots of this outstanding dish extend to the chef’s time running a Japanese restaurant in Peru, where the lack of traditional ingredients forced him to improvise with Latin American flavors. The resulting fusion can be tasted in other amazing items as well, from the fun-to-eat crispy rice with spicy yellowtail—it requires a bit of creative dipping, rolling, and scooping—to the delicate slices of gorgeously marbled wagyu beef, so tender you can cut it with a butter knife.
Naturally, you won’t want to leave without ordering some of Nobu’s legendary sushi. Here’s where everybody should chime in with their favorites, because whether you’re into big eye tuna and bluefin toro or jumbo clam and sea urchin, there’s a good chance it’ll be the best you’ve ever had. Show off your chopstick skills as you dip each succulent piece into soy sauce, sprinkle on just a touch of wasabi, and finish it off in one satisfying bite. Your friends might not notice, though, since they’ll be doing the same. Of course you’re full, but there’s always room for dessert, so pass around bowls of mochi ice cream, yuzu parfait, and tropical fruit “tartar” in apricot Thai basil broth as you reflect on the highlights of the meal. It’s a fittingly sweet end to an unforgettable experience. And to think, just hours ago you didn’t have any plans at all.