Chef Nobu, the Man and the Brand
Chef Nobu – Nobuyuki Matsuhisa – is the acclaimed and influential chef-owner of Nobu and Matsuhisa restaurants all over the world.
Nobu became the first celebrity chef to create and oversee a hotel brand, Nobu Hotels. The very first one, Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace, opened in Las Vegas in 2013.
Why Chef Nobu Is So Famous
Like all the most famous chefs of their times – Apicius of ancient Rome, Escoffier of France, Alice Waters of Berkeley -- Chef Nobu transformed his home cuisine.
He is responsible for the modern wave of Japanese fusion cuisine which updates classic sushi and other traditional dishes with global influences. Next time you bite into a piece of sushi topped with mango or jalapeño or dig into an entrée of black cod with miso sauce, you have Chef Nobu to thank.
Global Stints Create an International Style
Chef Nobu was raised in Saitama, Japan, near Tokyo. He knew what he wanted to do with his life the very first time he went to a sushi restaurant as a little boy. After high school, he got a live-in job at a sushiya in Tokyo.
At age 24, a diner offered him the job of chef in a new restaurant in Lima, Peru. In his three years in this multi-ethnic port city, Chef Nobu laid the foundations for his new cuisine. It's a Pacific marriage:
• His Japanese food incorporates flavors of Latin America, like chile peppers, tropical fruits, and hearts of palm
• And Chef Nobu's south-of-the-border dishes like tacos and ceviche are made with Japanese fixings
Following stints in Buenos Aires and Alaska, Chef Nobu took a friend's advice and resettled in Los Angeles. It was the late 1970s, and his timing was impeccable: L.A. was in the first flush of an enduring romance with sushi. In 1987, Chef Nobu marshaled his resources and opened Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills.
And the Rest Is History
Matsuhisa was an instant hit.
L.A. dining critics went wild for Chef Nobu's cuisine. (Leading the charge was Luxury Travel's culinary scribe Max Jacobson, then a restaurant reviewer for the Los Angeles Times.) The legend was underway.
And then the Nobu Empire expanded.
How Robert De Niro Got Star Billing in the Nobu Story
Matsuhisa became an L.A. hotspot frequented by Hollywood celebrities. Robert De Niro, an artist's son and ground-breaking actor, resonated with Nobu's creativity. The two became good friends, and De Niro urged Nobu to open in his home neighborhood, New York City's Tribeca.
Nobu New York opened in 1994 with two more partners: restaurateur Drew Nieporent and film producer Meir Teper. Their project became the talk of the town, and this Manhattan dining icon is today Chef Nobu's flagship eatery.
Critical acclaim for Chef Nobu has never ceased, and the legend lives on. As of September 2016, there were 22 Nobu Restaurants throughout the world. Twelve are in the U.S., including two in Vegas, two in L.A., two in Hawaii, and three in NYC. Here are restaurant views of:
• The original Nobu in Tribeca, NYC
• Nobu Caesars Palace in Vegas
• Nobu at Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas
• Nobu Miami Beach
There's more. Chef Nobu's hand is evident in his five Matsuhisa restaurants in the U.S. and Greece. One is set within the deluxe Solaris Residences in Vail, Colorado.
Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace is a great success, drawing culinary-minded guests with an appetite for luxury and fine design. More Nobu Hotels are poised to roll out in London, Riyadh, and Bahrain, combining great dining, design, and service.
What Nobu Restaurants Are Like
Dining in Nobu Restaurants is a different kind of dining experience. These restaurants are not like other Japanese places, which tend to be subdued shrines to sushi.
Each Nobu Restaurant is unique; there's no corporate sameness here. But all are glamorous and tastefully deluxe. Dining rooms are done with a soft Japanese palette and decorative elements that pay homage to time-honored Japanese culture. Yet the mood is vibrant and contemporary.
Many Nobu Restaurants were designed by "starchitect" David Rockwell, who also created the serene look of Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace. According to Rockwell, dining at a Nobu Restaurant is more than a meal. It is a shared theatrical experience.
The Cuisine of Nobu Restaurants
Diners at all Nobu Restaurants will find familiar Nobu signature dishes on the menu. These include:
• Yellowtail with Jalapeño
• Tiradito Nobu Style, a Peruvian-accented sashimi dish
• Lobster with Wasabi Pepper Sauce, a whole crustacean ready to be devoured
• Rock Shrimp Tempura, deep-fried, served with chili mayo, and irresistible
• Squid "Pasta," squid cut in linguine-like ribbons
• Black Cod with Miso, perhaps Nobu's most famous and oft-imitated dish, which has changed the way chefs and diners approach white fish
• Chocolate Bento Box, filled with dessert treats
Diners can also expect recipes unique to each restaurant, made with local ingredients such. These favorites include:
• Wagyu Tacos in Nobu Los Angeles
• Ranchero Ribeye Steak in Nobu Dallas
• Monkfish Paté in Nobu Tokyo
• Hirame with XO Salsa in Nobu Hong Kong
The Raw and the Cooked
Nobu restaurants offer extensive sushi, sashimi, and ceviche selections. But they also serve a variety of oven-cooked hot dishes such as a delectable poussin chicken. Grilled items are on offer too, such as skewered kushiyaki and yakitori. And of course, there's battered and fried tempura of all kinds.
Nobu Restaurants have introduced a teppanyaki menu. This Japanese cooking style showcases dishes cooked on iron slabs right at the table. Nobu Caesars Palace, the first Nobu Restaurant to offer this specialty, has three teppanyaki tables. A team of chefs creates a multi-course teppanyaki tasting menu, making magic before your eyes.