Nikita, the most anticipated restaurant of the year in Malibu, quietly opened at 5 p.m. Monday along the Carbon Beach oceanfront. It’s backed by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and named after his girlfriend, Ukranian actress Nikita Kahn. Currently worth an estimated $43 billion, he lives nearby and has in recent years demonstrated an insatiable appetite for purchasing adjacent real estate parcels, including at least nine Carbon homes.
Situated just across a Ferrari-festooned parking lot from Nobu -- Malibu’s dining debutante last summer -- Nikita shares its neighbor’s penchant for teak wood, minimalist stonework, giant glass panes and a generally understated Zen vibe. Dinner reservations were booked out all week, although the restaurant was only lightly occupied; management seemed to be purposefully easing into dinner service. Lunch will follow in a few months.
The menu, by chef Massimiliano Blasone (previously of the Michelin-starred Apsley's in London), is Italian-inclined Mediterranean through a Californian lens. Expect a lot of handmade pastas and precision-plated appetizers, such as the signature crispy sea bass “cannolo” appetizer accompanied by diced celery and cantaloupe.
Really, though, the most appropriate culinary description may just be Gazillionaire Grub: very small portions of very well-executed dishes at very high prices. (An itsy-bitsy $25 “lobster salad,” available only at the bar, consisted of two claws and several pieces of endive and frisee, all resting atop a smear of avocado puree.)
The first day’s crowd was almost entirely comprised of eager, in-the-know Malibuites, clad in the city’s particular definition of dressy-casual -- Piaget watch with baseball cap, James Perse top and bikini bottom with Hermes bag. There was quite a bit of talk about the positively-avant-garde-for-the-neighborhood cocktails (a mixology-minded list conjured by the noted Greg Seider, co-owner of The Summit Bar in Manhattan’s East Village) as well as local Fourth of July festivities. Specifically, the one being held at Nikita. It seems Ellison and his other investors have booked out most of the available tables for dinner on Thursday and are arranging for a rather epic fireworks spectacle over the water directly in front of the restaurant that may put other past Carbon barge displays to shame.