For a renowned chef with a
global restaurant and hotel empire, Nobu Matsuhisa is incredibly humble and
down-to-earth. During his recent one-night-only appearance at Nobu Kuala
Lumpur, the affable chef won the local media over with his thoughtful and often
Accompanied by Ichibaku
Kobayashi – General Manager of Nobu Tokyo & Regional Director of Asia
Pacific, Chef Herve Courtot – Corporate Chef EU & Middle East, and Chef
Philip Leong – Executive Chef of Nobu KL at the interview session, here are some
surprising facts about the Co-Founder behind Nobu and Nobu Hotels:
most memorable meal he has ever cooked was for the late Princess Diana. It was a private
lunch where he had a chance to meet the late Princess of Wales who left an
indelible impression on Nobu-san when she told the chef she had read about him.
When he learned of her passing, he felt incredibly sad and said the experience
of having cooked for her was unforgettable.
most memorable meal someone has ever cooked for him was by his wife-to-be before they were married. He
recalled she prepared an egg dish for him. “Although the dish tasted a bit strange,
I think it was wonderful because it was something she cooked from the heart.”
three food ingredients he cannot live without: rice, shoyu and miso soup. He attributed these
ingredients as most essential to a Japanese diet especially steamed white rice.
secrets to his success:
While luck may play a role in Nobu-san’s success, the master chef believes his
team is one of the fundamentals of his continued success.
“Passion and heart are also
essential,” says Chef Nobu. “Without passion and heart, it’s not possible to do
favourite dishes from the Nobu menu are:
Cod Miso – When Nobu-san started
his restaurant over two and half decades ago, he chose to buy cod as it only
cost 25 cents per pound. Without credit he had to pay cash so he chose to work
with cod as a more affordable option: slicing, defrosting then marinating the
fish with mirin, sake, sugar and miso paste for 3 days instead of
shoyu and miso. After broiling, the cod tasted like butter fish and his customers
love it. Robert De Niro loved it and the media started to publicize it, making it
Shell Crab Roll – Nobu-san
enjoys eating soft shell crabs in French and Italian restaurants where they are
pan- and deep-fried. When he served deep-fried soft shell crabs to one of his
customers, the latter requested Chef Nobu to wrap the leftover soft
shell crab pieces into a rice roll, and voila! the soft shell crab roll was
‘Pasta’ – this dish was created
for a friend’s child who was a fussy eater. Since pasta was the kid's favourite
dish, the quick-thinking Nobu-san cut and blanched squid; turning the resultant squid pieces into conchiglie (shell-shaped pasta), prompting the kid to
eat everything up without realising it wasn’t pasta he ate but squid. You can attempt to replicate this dish at home: https://www.noburestaurants.com/home/nobu-at-home-2/squid-pasta-with-light-garlic-sauce-2/
Style Sashimi – when a
lady customer sent back a plate of sashimi, informing Chef Nobu she doesn’t eat
raw fish, the chef pondered how to entice her to try it. He then heated up some
olive oil until smoking hot, poured it over the thin slices of sashimi, causing
the fish to cook slightly. After sampling the new dish, the customer ate
“She managed overcome her fear of eating raw
fish from that experience. Before that, she shied away from sashimi as she
thought it’d taste fishy but we proved to her fresh fish tastes delicious” said
bizarre food please. Chef
Nobu is not a fan of weird or strange food. He has tried nasi goreng, laksa and
seafood on his visit to Malaysia, and he admitted he's more comfortable with Asian food than
Ever respectful of his customers’ cultural
differences, the chef was even inspired to create his signature wasabi pepper
sauce after noticing a customer enjoying a mixture of shoyu and wasabi as a
bread dip at Nobu restaurant.
The Pandemic Years
Having to travel 10 months a
year and feeling jetlagged, Nobu-san said he was happy to stay home in Los
Angeles during the pandemic years.
“It was the first time in
over 25 years I had stuck to a routine: being able to wake up and go to bed at
the same time, every day. Yet it was also stressful but with FaceTime and modern
technology, I can still communicate with my team.”
restaurants were closed during that time whilst others coped by doing take-out.
According to Chef Philip Leung, Nobu KL was under renovations then but they also
did take-out during the later MCO phases.
Now that things have
returned to normal, Nobu restaurants are busier than ever with customers returning
New Nobu restaurants and Nobu Hotels are also opening in Marrakesh,
Rome, San Sebastian, Madrid, Toronto, Atlantic City, Atlanta, Da Nang, Bangkok, and Dubai.
According to Nobu-san, he has no plans to set up a culinary academy or pursue anything too adventurous due to time constraints. He's happy to focus on the restaurant business and see his customers enjoying his cooking for now.
last meal on earth?
As a true blue Japanese, sushi is his dish of choice.