At the very bottom of the list of important things to worry over during the pandemic is this: Starting in March, when the world slowed to a crawl, the well of celebrity street style ran as dry as the L.A. River. We were left with meager scraps: Howie Mandel and Naomi Campbell’s full hazmat suits qualified as big fits, while we duly noted fellow celebs in their scattered store-run outfits. We wondered: As time went on and the world oscillated between opening places up and closing them back down, would there be any place where outrageous fits, glamour, and capital-F fashion could thrive? As Future once rapped, “Nobu, Nobu, Nobu, Nobu, Nobu, Nobu.”
At Nobu Malibu, there is no shutdown and there are few masks; there are only big, big fits. (And plenty of black cod in miso.) Even before the pandemic, the chain of high-end sushi joints co-owned by Robert De Niro was a celebrity favorite. The restaurant was reportedly engineered to host reclusive celebs, with secret entrances and hidden seating areas, while takeout is routinely delivered via private plane.
Over the past couple of months, though, Nobu’s become an even more perfect refuge for the rich and famous: With abundant outdoor patio dining and an isolated location along the California coastline, it is a vision drawn up in the CDC handbook. And if you’re a celebrity with a funky electric-blue suit to show off, where do you go? You go to Nobu, like Jaden Smith did in July. If you’re newlyweds Justin and Hailey Bieber, there is only one remaining date-night spot. When you win the NBA championship, of course you can go to Disney World. But that’s boring, so LeBron James and crew pulled up to Nobu. “It’s paradise,” says Jonathan Cheban, Keeping Up With the Kardashians fixture and self-appointed “Foodgod,” who’s dined at Nobu several times this year. “You actually feel like you are on vacation, sitting basically eating on the ocean. People definitely put their fire fits on because you feel like you are leaving Beverly Hills and actually going out.”
The list of celebrities that have converged on Nobu since March in search of that slice of paradise is notable for its length. Among those to attend [deep breath]: Chandler Parsons, Scott Disick, Jamie Foxx, Demi Lovato, Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow, Kaia Gerber, Kelly Osbourne, Matt Damon, Kevin Hart, Joakim Noah, Odell Beckham Jr., most of the Jenners (multiple times), Sean Penn, Stevie Wonder, Steph and Ayesha Curry, Foxx again, Chris Rock, Blake Griffin, Charlize Theron, Travis Barker, David Spade, Machine Gun Kelly, Disick again, Cole Sprouse, Gerard Butler, Kim Kardashian, Leonardo DiCaprio, Courtney Cox, DJ Mustard, Tobey Maguire, Kyle Kuzma with Winnie Harlow, Yo Gotti, Cindy Crawford, Disick again, Jaden Smith, Kourtney Kardashian, Jaden again with Willow, Josh Duhamel, Karl-Anthony Towns, Troy Aikman, Kourtney again, Foxx again, DiCaprio again, Adam Sandler, Cara Delevingne, Victor Cruz with Karrueche Tran, The Weeknd, Amber Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Vanessa Hudgens, Sandler again, Tekashi69, Seal, Halsey, James Corden, Devin Booker with Kendall, Jason Derulo, Anderson Paak, Lindsey Vonn with P.K. Subban, Cheban, Olivia Wilde with Jason Sudeikis, Kanye, Joe Montana, Heidi Klum, Brooklyn Beckham, Angelina Jolie, Javale McGee, and the celebrating Laker LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, and Kuzma (…again). “It’s definitely the new hot spot ever since the pandemic,” says photographer Julian White, who’s taken photos of celebrities coming and going from Nobu.
There are, if you can believe it, stakes to all this, if not of the life-and-death variety. The celebrity style–industrial complex is an essential sales- and trend-generating apparatus, a surprisingly powerful driver of multiple economies. And right now, with most other restaurants stuck with a few outdoor tables, Nobu is pulling triple duty: It’s become a red carpet, an NBA tunnel, and a Fashion Week runway all wrapped into one—plus it serves fatty tuna. That Justin-and-Hailey date night is a blast of raw celebrity energy: The former’s tie-dye hoodie winds up on the Daily Mail, while the latter’s Wandler shoes prompt a press release. The celebs get something out of it too: Nobu is also a place, like it was in the pre-pandemic era, for Bieber to plug his Drew clothing line, as he’s done on a couple of occasions.
There is hardly anything normal in 2020, but celebrities continuing to eat overpriced spicy tuna and crispy rice remains an unchanged pleasure. And if you ask them, there’s nowhere better to be. As Cheban put it succinctly to me, “That place is a VIBE!!” He added: “I’m actually going tonight.”