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Photos: Nobu and Robert De Niro’s new hotel at Caesars Palace is heaven on Earth

Nobu Hotel and Restaurant Ribbon Cutting

Erik Kabik/

The Nobu Hotel and Restaurant ribbon-cutting opening with chef Nobu Matsuhisa and business partner and actor Robert De Niro in Caesars Palace on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013.

Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace

Nobu Hotel and Restaurant

Chef Nobu Matsuhisa talks with the media at the new Nobu Restaurant at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace

Nobu Hotel and Restaurant Ribbon Cutting

The Nobu Hotel and Restaurant ribbon-cutting opening with chef Nobu Matsuhisa and business partner and actor Robert De Niro in Caesars Palace on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Celebrity chef extraordinaire and lifestyle trendsetter Nobu Matsuhisa must have been given a preview look into heaven. He’s captured its tranquility, serenity and calming influence in his new, first-ever Nobu Hotel that opens today at Caesars Palace.

The samurai sword and purple ribbon-cutting ceremony with Nobu, his business partner actor Robert De Niro, designer David Rockwell and Caesars top executives led by President Gary Selesner was followed by a weekend VIP champagne party. TV star chef Gordon Ramsay dropped by to congratulate his new restaurant neighbor.

In a sense, the wood-carved entry to the 181-room hotel merges into the 327-seat restaurant, now the largest Nobu in the world. After a staff greeting in Japanese from the waiters -- “Welcome to our house” -- we all sat down at adjoining tables for a first-night feast.

I’ve waited 60-plus years to use the delightful expression “I’ll have what he’s having” as I pointed to Nobu ordering his own 10-course tasting menu. It was a royal feast beyond description that included my first-ever tasting of lobster sashimi with gold flakes and caviar -- with the lobster still moving! Words fail me in describing how delicate and brilliant it was.

I had an $80 sake box, Robert’s favorite. The precious liquid not only fills a wooden box, but also spills over into a saucer so that the wood is soaked with the pure rice wine. The Oscar winner recommended that I put sea-salt lumps on the edge to sip from as it was the authentic and traditional way.

The feast lasted more than two hours. The Nobu group departed for L.A., and I was invited to spend the night in a Nobu Hotel suite for our Vegas DeLuxe sneak preview. It proved a completely unique experience in Strip hotel stays.

Nobuyuki Matsuhisa -- known to the world as Nobu -- kicked off the pre-opening celebrations with a breakfast to showcase the debut of his first-ever in-room dining menu. It includes Eggs Matsuhisa, bagel and lox and green tea waffles. David of the Rockwell Group followed with a property tour.

Check out Editor at Large John Katsilometes’ story of Friday’s media tour posted here Sunday, and my preview story was posted Thursday. Our thanks also to contributing photographer Erik Kabik and Las Vegas Sun photographer Leila Navidi for their photo galleries.

Nobu lost his father when he was 7 years old. He knew that he wanted a kitchen career from a young age and worked in a Tokyo restaurant after high school. He went to Lima, Peru, at the request of one of his customers to open a restaurant, but they split after three years. He then worked in Buenos Aires, Argentina, before opening his own first restaurant in Alaska.

It burned to the ground and with debts to pay, he took a job in an L.A. sushi bar. It took nine years for him to become solvent and open his own restaurant, Matsuhisa, in 1987. It was there that Robert discovered his unique food and personality, but Nobu turned down the star’s overtures to open a second in New York. It took until 1994 before he finally said yes and began their partnership. Now they have 29 restaurants in 25 cities on five continents.

“There was just something so special about him, his quality and his food,” Robert told me Saturday in the teppanyaki room at the restaurant, also a first for Nobu. “I couldn’t let him remain in Los Angeles. I had to bring him to New York and then to the rest of the world. It was simple. A no-brainer. There’s something remarkable about him. You can’t find words to describe him other than that he is a very special man. His food is unique in the world and reflects him.

“We would get all these invitations to open Nobu restaurants in different hotels in the world. We couldn’t do them all, but it got me thinking why if so many hotels wanted us, why didn’t we just do the hotels ourselves with our restaurants in them. Why let others use our name when we can do it ourselves. It always excited me to have a Nobu Hotel.”

“The idea was a few years ago. Nobu wanted to do it. We signed on for it, and now after three years of planning with the good people of Caesars, here we are.”

The partnership is already set to open future Nobu hotels in Saudi Arabia and Qatar by the end of the year. Robert, who also is a partner in New York’s Tribeca restaurant and the Greenwich Hotel, is opening that venue with chef Natakua Jibladze and chef Andrew Carmelini in Malaysia.

My friend Nobu told me: “This is a very big day for me. This is a longtime dream of mine. To have a hotel with my name on it is an honor. It is very prestigious the first one is in Las Vegas. I will serve our guests with pride. It will always be the best, like our food.

“I like to see my restaurant customers happy and smiling. We are very serious about what we do, but it is with fun. It is for people to enjoy. The hotel completes what we started with the restaurants when it comes to tastes and experiences. Now they will be smiling staying in our hotel.”

After the excitement of the opening with the traditional Tayku drummers, the magnificent models in origami paper dresses, the stunning servers with magnums of champagne and the magnificent meal, it was time for the iPad check-in to my room. The elevator somehow knows exactly which floor you’re headed to, and you just wave your key card at the suite door to open it.

For Sunday breakfast, I had his unique twist on bagels and lox -- a rice cake served with salmon sashimi. It might just put the original New York taste treat out of business. Top it off with Nobu’s granola, and you wonder why you’ve ever bothered eating anything else.

It’s difficult to put into words how the fun and energy of Nobu’s attitude on life is evident in the stylish serenity, stillness, elegance and harmony of the suite. The photos show it so much better.

The first guests checked in today. The grand opening will be on April 28, when the larger suites, including the former five-bedroom “Rain Man” suite (remember the 1988 Oscar-winning Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise film), will be revealed.

I think Nobu received a sneak peak at what heaven might be like; he somehow captured it, brought it down to Earth and miraculously placed it in his new hotel at the heart of The Strip.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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