Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa—in Paris to oversee the opening of his latest restaurant, Matsuhisa Paris, at Le Royal Monceau hotel—spoke about the restaurant opening, sushi etiquette, and the person he’d most like to cook for.
What is ‘Nobu’ cuisine?
Nobu Matsuhisa: I started training in Tokyo when I was 18 years old and started cooking Japanese food. Then I moved to Peru and saw a lot of different ingredients like lemons, garlic, cilantro, onions, so I started making Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients. But my base cooking is Japanese. This is what I call “Nobu-style” food.
This isn’t the first time you opened a restaurant in Paris. In 2001, you opened Nobu. What’s different this time?
When I opened Nobu Paris in 2001, I was a bit disappointed. The restaurant wasn’t perfect. So we closed it after a year and a half. Now, 15 years later, my partners and I have opened restaurants in Mykonos, St. Moritz, Athens, Munich … so we have teams in Europe. Before we opened in Paris this time, we also did pop-up promotions to test the grounds.
You’ve added hotelier to your résumé with two hotels and another three coming up in London, Miami, and Saudi Arabia. What do you look for when you stay at a hotel?
For me, there has to be a nice gym. I like the Royal Monceau for their swimming pool. I swam today and yesterday. I like to exercise, so a gym is very important. Of course, hospitality and good service is important. But sometimes too much service is very uncomfortable too. I don’t like overly complicated hotels. I like simple.
What are some of the mistakes you see diners make when they eat sushi at your restaurants?
In Japan, we never use too much soy sauce. When you eat sushi in Japan, never mix wasabi with soy sauce, because the sushi already has wasabi between the fish and the rice. Also the sushi chef will often brush soy sauce on the fish. And in Japan you eat it in one bite. This is the real way. In America and Europe they mix wasabi with lots of soy sauce. Also, in Japanese culture, Japanese people never put soy sauce on their steamed rice. In the beginning when I saw this I was shocked. But now I laugh.
If you could cook for one person that you haven’t cooked for yet, who would it be?
If my father were still alive, I would like to cook for him. I’ve made sushi for my mother, but my father passed away when I was a child. If my father were here now I would like to prepare sushi for him.
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