The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2017

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Page 47 of 116

june 2017  /  the tasting panel  /  47 JEFFREY PROTESTA NOBU NEWPORT BEACH After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu, Jeff began with an internship and eventually worked his way up to Lead Bartender, assisting in the launch of Nobu Indian Wells before opening Nobu Newport Beach in Southern California earlier this year. Overlooking the harbor, this spot serves refreshing concoctions, like yuzu kumquat coolers and cucumber Martinis, which feel very SoCal indeed. "Our cocktail program is a huge plus to the food," mentions Jeff. "It adds in more flavors, but food is always first. Nobu cre- ated a place to eat, and we focus on that while training staff and creating drink menus." This restaurant is also the first and only Nobu with a Grand Cordon bar, which serves high-end and rare Japanese spirits along with six rotating cocktails from the nationwide Grand Cordon cocktail competition. This com- petition takes place among nine Nobus across the country; a theme, such as rosemary or a certain mezcal, is chosen, and the locations have two months to create a cocktail and submit it to the tasting contest. The top three cocktails each get a prize, and the winning cocktail ends up on the menu at each of each of the participating Nobus for the next two months. The Grand Cordon bar at Newport Beach features only past and present winners; Jeff describes it as, "a specialty craft bar, almost like a speakeasy within the restaurant." "Nobu keeps it interesting," he continues. "And they allow our staff to be their own people and have their own swagger. That, and the instant connection you have with others at Nobu, is what attracts all of us to stay for a long time," making each of these locations part of one big Nobu family. JAD MAROUCHE NOBU DOWNTOWN Originally from Seattle, Jad began his career at Nobu in Los Angeles after college. He began as a server and cross-trained into the bar, working across the country at the Malibu, Lana'i and Miami locations and opening "a couple Nobus along the way." He made his way to the Big Apple to oversee Nobu Fifty Seven and recently opened Nobu Downtown, in the neoclassical-style build- ing at 195 Broadway, located in the Financial District. "Our clientele from coast to coast are jet-setters," Jad notes. "I see familiar faces wherever I go. No matter which location you are at, you know the guest will be very knowledgeable; they may even know more than the staff, which is why we teach our servers not to have an ego and why they must be open when interacting with our customers." Jad takes great care in hiring staff and prioritizes attitude over experience, looking for prospective employees whose resumés show them to be self-sufficient. Jadintroduced Saké Frescas to Nobu Downtown, which is extracted Hokusetsu Saké using a slow drip process that highlights delicate flavors of a 72-hour sea- sonal fruit infusion. Just in time for spring, the menu will include a kiwi-strawberry concoction, the perfect after- work drink for all of those stressed out New Yorkers. Jad Marouche of Nobu Downtown, located in the Financial District in NYC. Jeffrey Protesta of Nobu Newport Beach at its Grand Cordon bar.

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