Resetting in Malibu
Written by Eliza Krpoyan
The ocean air whirs through the car. My fingers poke out of the window, touching the cool temperature like a sort of greeting. It has become me and my husband’s ritual to slightly crack the car window open the moment we turn onto the PCH. Unconsciously, we both inhale a deep breath while filling our lungs with the salty breeze.
Because of the chaos and uncertainty of the pandemic over the past year, moments of calm have been few and far between. In exploration of reconnection to our surroundings and ourselves, we packed a weekend bag and headed for Malibu.
After a picturesque coastal drive, we arrive at the sanctuary known as Nobu Ryokan Malibu. Nestled on the sand adjacent to exclusive members-only, Soho House Malibu is a five-star, unassuming Japanese hotel. Immediately, upon entering the secluded hideaway a wave of Zen comes over us. It is a combination of the sound of the waves crashing coupled with a waterfall fountain tucked inside the traditional Japanese garden.
Once we settle in, we are greeted with mochi and green tea, which we enjoy on our private deck overlooking the ocean. Privacy is expected from founders including Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert DeNiro. But particularly during this time there is even more seclusion with practices including registered guests only allowed on-site. The few signs of a pandemic are a contactless temperature check upon arrival and a complimentary safety amenity kit, which includes two masks, two pairs of gloves, and hand sanitizer. Otherwise, during our stay we briefly forget the events of the past year. Nobu Ryokan Malibu is the beacon of a safe, Covid-friendly vacation destination that doesn’t compromise luxury.
Minimalism is the ultimate luxury. It’s the absence of the complicated. At Nobu Ryokan Malibu this sentiment is evident in the design. The intimate property features 16 rooms. Each is adorned in traditional Japanese design elements including tatami mats, shoji-style closets, artwork from Japan, and limestone walls. Simple teak paneling dresses the walls and soaring ceilings throughout. The bathroom is outfitted with a handcrafted Japanese-inspired teak soaking-tub. The hotel requires a two-night minimum for a stay ($2,000/night).
For lunch, we take a short drive to Broad Street Oyster Company where founder Christopher Tompkins sells thousands and thousands of lobster rolls every week. What started as Tompkins shucking oysters from an ice cart on wheels and a Coleman camping grill popped-up in brewery parking lots in 2017 has turned into a brick-and-mortar restaurant inside Malibu Village. On weekends, socially distanced lines can last up to two hours and the drive-thru can have cars backed up to the PCH. Tompkins offers a pro tip to order ahead of time on their online shop, broadstreetmalibu.com, so that you can skip the wait and head straight to the pick-up window.
Here, seafood is sourced as locally as possible and specializes in Santa Barbara sea urchin, oysters from Morro Bay, Hope Ranch mussels, and Regiis Ova caviar. While everything on the menu is noteworthy, personal favorites include the famous lobster roll served warm with butter, panko crusted jumbo shrimp, fried clam strips, and French fries served with Old Bay aioli.
Around the corner from the restaurant is their sister shop Joules & Watts where you can enjoy coffee and gelato. The beans are single origin and roasted weekly in downtown LA. The gelato is Nancy’s Fancy by Nancy Silverton of Osteria Mozza.
After a decadent meal, we attempt to burn some of it off with shopping at newly opened Bleusalt in the Malibu Country Mart, which is just minutes away from the hotel (spoiler: we return to the Country Mart for dinner at Lucky’s Steakhouse).
Bleusalt is a line of luxurious basics that are 100 percent sustainably made in the USA. The natural beauty of Malibu is what inspired founder Lyndie Benson to create Bleusalt. The brand not only has a minimal impact on the ocean and planet, but each piece is vegan, cruelty-free, and antimicrobial.
Celebrities including Partrick Dempsey, Cindy Crawford, and Rande Gerber are among many who wear the luxurious line. As well as model, Kaia Gerber who inspired the design of a namesake flared legging. A portion of The Kaia Pant sales is donated to A Sense of Home, helping LA based youth transition out of foster homes.
Loungewear shopping leads us to lounging back at Nobu Ryokan where we want to spend as much time as possible. While Lucky’s Steakhouse offers outdoor dining, and as of March both Santa Barbara and LA County allow 25 percent interior dining, we later opt to take away dinner from Lucky’s Steakhouse to enjoy in our room. The hotel staff can assist in ordering from a local restaurant or offer a lift in the Range Rover house-car to nearby locations, or they can pick-up on your behalf altogether.
Lucky’s Steakhouse in Malibu, which opened in December 2020, is the second outpost, the flagship is in Montecito. For the most part, the menu items reflect the Santa Barbara location with the exception of seasonal specials created by Lucky’s Malibu Executive Chef Michael Rosen.
Seated at the custom dining table in our room with the glass wall of doors open and fireplace on, we indulge in the 8 oz. Lucky Burger, 6 oz. Sliced Filet Mignon Open Faced Sandwich with mushroom sauce, Greek salad with feta, Prosciutto Di Parma with roasted peppers and arugula, and skinny onion rings.
The next morning, we opt to maximize our time in the serene sanctuary and call for early in-room dining consisting of a caramelized banana French toast, and an acai yogurt bowl. My husband soaks up the sun and sounds of the ocean as our stay comes to an end. We check out and walk over to Nobu Malibu for lunch. Our personal favorites here include the Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna, Nobu Style Tacos, and Rock Shrimp Tempura among the nigiri sushi and sashimi. The proximity of the restaurant to the hotel makes it feel as though we are staying at a resort.
If, like us, after checking out and eating lunch, you’re not ready to leave Malibu, reserve Bliss Beach for a chic beach setup at Pointe Dume. Founded by Brian Jones, Bliss Beach offers luxury beach lounges. Jones used to live in Kenya where he ran a children's center and also fell in love with safari and luxury camping. He founded a travel company called Kin Travel to design safaris with a focus on pioneering conservation efforts and eventually designed a tented hotel.
“When I wasn't out in the bush, I was at home on the beach in LA and started to build a mini-version of our Caribbean camp to pop-up on the sand to host friends and gather our travel community. Neighbors would pass by and ask if they could rent the gear and Bliss Beach bloomed naturally from there,” he shares.
For two to four people there is the Little Lounge option, which includes two day-beds, two hardwood chairs, an umbrella with a large rug, side table, and a cooler with ice blocks—all you’ve got to do is bring whatever you’d like to eat or drink. After a successful day on the sand, the Bliss Beach team arrives at the end of your reservation time to gather the gear.
The whole trip lasted two days, and yet we felt as though we had been gone for two weeks. We lost track of time in a way that was different than throughout the pandemic. It was a moment for us to lose ourselves in relaxation as time and stress melted away. Our getaway in Malibu was a glimpse of what used to be, as well as a recharge of hope for what will be again.