To add some more style and class to our Japanese cuisine feature, we thought it would be ideal to interview chef Nobu, with his restaurant coming to Doha soon.
Sure to open soon, the much-anticipated Nobu Doha restaurant, located at the Four Seasons Hotel, will provide the city with top-quality Japanese cuisine.
Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, known simply as Nobu, currently has 29 restaurants in 28 cities around the world, spanning across five continents.
Born and raised in Siatama, Nobu served his apprenticeship at a sushi bar in Tokyo, moving to a sushi establishment in Peru. From Peru, Nobu moved to Argentina, back to Japan, on to Alaska and then to Los Angeles, where he now resides. His first restaurant, Matsuhisa, opened in Beverly Hills, California, in 1987. It is here where his long-term friendship with movie star Robert De Niro began. De Niro and Nobu opened the first Nobu in New York in 1994, and their friendship and collaboration has remained since.
Accolades for his restaurants include Matsuhisa being chosen as one of the Top Ten Restaurant Destinations in the world in the New York Times in 1993; Nobu being awarded Best Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation and many other awards, including Nobu London being awarded a Michelin star in 1997, as well as a Michelin star for his restaurants at Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, Berkeley and San Diego.
Time Out Doha magazine caught up with the celebrity chef.
Name: Nobuyuki Matsuhisa
Number of restaurants worldwide: 30 (including Nobu Doha)
How many years have you been a chef? Over 40 years
Why does presentation play such a big part in Japanese cuisine?
I think presentation is important in all types of cuisine. Food shouldn’t just be pleasing to the palate, but also pleasing to the eye. There should be balance on the plate. The colours and shapes on the plate should complement each other.
Nature can be the perfect guide for food presentation, just like the four seasons. In spring and summer I use lighter colours like more greens, white and reds. In the fall and winter, darker and richer ingredients are used.
What sets Nobu restaurants apart from others?
I don’t try to be different. I focus on and listen to the needs of my guests and try to interpret what may be appealing to them. That allows the guest to participate in crafting his or her personal dining experience.
What’s the philosophy of your cooking?
I believe quality food and good service are both necessary to make the customer happy. We try to use the freshest and best quality ingredients available in all of our dishes. I also want to keep my staff happy. Some of them have been here for 20 years so they are like family to me.
How do you design your menu?
All of our locations have the same signature dishes on their menus – yellowtail jalapeno, sashimi salad, black cod miso and others. These are the dishes that our customers look for when they go to a Nobu. We also have specials using ingredients from their local markets. For example, San Diego has wonderful sea urchin and we use it to create some of the best dishes at Nobu San Diego.
Is there a way you want your customers to experience your food?
Typically, in a Japanese restaurant, the rice dish is served last because it is the heaviest. That means, typically, sushi is always one of the last dishes guests have. By the time they get to the sushi course, some of them are starting to get full from all of the other dishes they had and miss out on having sushi. Now, I like to serve cold dishes and lighter dishes first, followed by two or maybe three pieces of sushi and end with hot, heavier meat or fish dishes, sushi (if there is still room for more), soup, and finally dessert.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu?
All of the traditional ones, such as sashimi salad and any sashimi with dried miso.
And what are you cooking at home?
I travel 10 months out of the year, so I never really cook at home. Whatever my wife decides she is cooking is what I am having.
Nobu's five tips for top sushi
1. ‘Good quality and the freshest fish is a must.’
2. ‘Good rice needs to be used and should be washed five or six times. The correct ratio of rice to water is needed for perfectly steamed rice.’
3. ‘A very sharp knife. You want nicely sliced pieces of fish.’
4. ‘Pay attention to the detail and proportion. The fish should not be sliced too big and you should not use too much rice. Try to find the balance between the two for perfectly formed, well-proportioned sushi.’
5. ‘Do not over complicate the ingredients – keep it simple. The focus should be on the flavour inherent to each ingredient. Too many flavours and the purity gets lost.’
Nobu’s personal achievements:
1) America’s 10 Best New Chefs (Food and Wine Magazine, 1989)
2) South California’s Rising Stars (Los Angeles Times Magazine, 1998)
3) Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America (James Beard Foundation, numerous years)
4) Outstanding Chef nominated (James Beard Foundation, numerous years)
5) One of the 11 Most Influential Chefs of the Decade (Madrid Fusion, 2009)