Whisky Magazine Issue 87
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WM caught up with Matsuhisa Nobu during one of his recent whirlwind visits to his Tokyo restaurant.
Ask any diner in London, New York, Milan or Dubai to name their favourite Japanese chef and the odds are that ‘Nobu” will be the name that first springs to their lips.
But just what is “Nobu Style” and why does it seem to be more successful overseas than in the land of his birth?
Born in Saitama Prefecture in 1949, much of Nobu's critical acclaim and recognition has come from outside Japan, with a total of 25 restaurants (21 branded as ‘Nobu' and 4 as ‘Matsuhisa') spread over five continents, as opposed to a solitary ‘Nobu' in central Tokyo.
Although a location in the lee of the legendary Hotel Okura in Toranomon can hardly be described as low-key, one gets the feeling that the ultra-conservative culinary scene in Japan is not yet ready for what has become known as “Nobu Style”.
Nobu enjoyed a classic sushi training at a restaurant in Shinjuku, spending three years washing dishes and accompanying his ‘master' to the fish-market every morning, before being allowed finally to prepare food himself for customers. A traditional enough start to his career as a Japanese chef, but it was however time spent abroad, firstly in Peru and Argentina, and then in Alaska that really shaped the unique style that defines him today. These early days were far from easy, but rows with business partners, a restaurant lost to fire and deep debts were all put behind him in 1987 when he opened his first “Matsuhisa” restaurant in Beverley Hills.
It was in Beverley Hills th...