Chef Nobu Matsuhisa: “Five dishes that changed my life.”
Superstar chef Nobu Matsuhisa has created hundreds of dishes across his 45 restaurants the world over.
On a recent visit to Dubai, we asked him about the ones that started it all...
New style sashimi
My first restaurant, Matsuhisa, only had 38 seats and most guests would go ‘off menu’. One day, a lady asked me to prepare whatever I wanted, so I gave her fresh halibut sashimi. She declined the dish saying she would not eat raw fish. Back in 1987, people were not as adventurous. I took the plate back and wondered what I could do with it to not ruin it. I saw a pan with very hot olive oil and poured it over the sashimi and served it again. It was not raw but not cooked either. She cleaned the plate. New-style sashimi began as a compromise and became a triumph.
Black cod miso
When I opened Matsuhisa in Beverley Hills in the ’80s, I would go to the fish market each morning to buy fresh fish. Black cod was always there, but no one really used it, so it was very cheap. I decided to start buying it and, inspired by the traditional Japanese method of marinating fresh fish in miso, I made my own special marinade and developed the Black Cod Miso recipe as it is known today. When I first started serving the dish, I didn’t know that Robert De Niro was visiting Matsuhisa regularly, and would always order the dish. We got to know one another from there and that was the start of the first Nobu in NYC.
When I was growing up in Japan, sushi was considered a very high end dish, not like what we experience today. I first ate it as a teenager when my brother took me to a sushi restaurant in Tokyo. From the minute the door slid open, to the energy of the sushi bar and the experience of ordering sushi piece by piece, it was life changing. The experience of feeling the entire heart of the chef can be felt over
a sushi counter and I will never forget the human connection that I felt. After that being a sushi chef was my dream and now, after 50 years, it’s a dream come true to be making and serving my sushi across the world.
When I was a child my bedroom was close to the kitchen and I remember waking up in the morning to the smell of my mother cooking miso soup. Miso soup is ingrained in the Japanese culture and forms part of a traditional Japanese breakfast. It makes me think of my mother every time I eat it.
Once I was in Hawaii as a guest chef at a big party. After the guests left all of the staff were hungry. Each chef stepped in to make a simple dish for the staff to eat and, as I had some fish leftover, I sliced it into the sashimi. I didn’t have any soy or wasabi however, which is how sashimi is usually served, so I found some jalapeño which I sliced, and used French garlic and lemon. It was very popular, so I later recreated it with yuzu instead of lemon, and presented it beautifully.
Nobu Dubai is located at Atlantis, the Palm. Open 6pm – 11pm. Tel: +04 426 2626.