Bloomberg Businessweek

Maitre D’ Undercover

From celebrity seating warfare to dogs sipping Champagne, there’s never a dull moment at Nobu, America’s most famous sushi joint

The year was 1999, and a flamboyant Italian man dined night after night at Matsuhisa, chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s eponymous Beverly Hills sushi joint. He’d heard the restaurant was lucky: Eat here before the Academy Awards, and you’re guaranteed to take home the prize. The man in question was Roberto Benigni, who, sure enough, nabbed the Oscar for best actor in Life Is Beautiful. The recipe for success had proved effective the year before, too, when Robin Williams snacked on its signature yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, then won the trophy for best supporting actor in Good Will Hunting. By then the establishment was swamped with A-listers.

One such star was Robert De Niro, who spent four years convincing Nobu that an enterprise in the actor’s native New York City would be lucky, too.

Fast-forward to now, and Bob and Nobu-san, as they’re called, have expanded their restaurant business into a global lifestyle brand that includes hotels and condos and forecasts revenue of more than $1 billion in the next five years.

To understand the unflagging fervor for all things Nobu, I happily accepted an offer to maitre d’ at both New York locations: Nobu Fifty Seven in Midtown and Nobu Downtown in the Financial District. The position is

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