Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 | 7:07 a.m.
The man, the myth, the legend. Titles that certainly apply to master Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa, who has 22 restaurants worldwide and is acclaimed for the world’s best sushi and Asian taste treats. He flew into Las Vegas last month with 28 of his chefs at his U.S. restaurants for two extraordinary dinner parties.
The first was at the Hard Rock Hotel where he opened his first Las Vegas restaurant and the second at his new Nobu Caesars Palace hotel and restaurant, where he served an extravagant multi-course dinner as his debut Nobu United charity foundation to benefit our beloved organization Keep Memory Alive.
His Strip hotel and restaurant at Caesars is the largest location in the world, and, while preparing his culinary masterpieces, he held a rare, invitation-only presentation to show special guests how he creates his legendary dishes such as lobster ceviche and chicken wings marinated in a special micro greens mixture.
He also answered a few questions:
It’s the first Nobu United event, but you didn’t hold back with something small. You went big and brought in all your top chefs.
I’m very happy with all the 28 chefs who have come in for Nobu United. Normally, I go to each restaurant and see one restaurant, and one chef, but now I’m seeing them at one time. It’s easy for me, and also the chefs are excited to be cooking together in the same kitchen.
What inspired this event?
It’s more teamwork and working together and, most important for this one, each restaurant’s people understand what they’re doing. The teamwork becomes stronger.
Why did you choose our local Keep Memory Alive charity to be the beneficiary instead of a worldwide charity?
I know Larry Ruvo. Seventeen years ago in Caesars Palace, I was the first guest chef to cook for Keep Memory Alive. We went to the [Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health], and all the chefs got to see it; Larry Ruvo showed us. I like to support local as much as possible. This is my concept. If I went to Tokyo, I would support the tsunami foundations. I do Meals on Wheels in New York and LA. Each place we have a restaurant, I like to support the local initiatives.
How did you go about collecting which menu items were going to be featured and which specific team members were going to attend?
We have the 28 chefs, and we’re doing the canape and the sit-down dinner. I’m not sure who does which, but we have a lot of communication in the meetings, and I have a couple of corporate chefs here, so they talk to chefs and they do what they do. Kitchen chefs and sushi chefs, so different techniques; it’s a nice combination.
What do you love about Las Vegas, and what do you think makes this location different from all the others besides being the biggest?
Especially this location, all the building is called Nobu Hotel. Also, we have room service, the breakfast here. Also 325 seats, the biggest Nobu restaurant. Customers stay here and come to Nobu before and after shows.
You have a Nobu at Hard Rock. Did you want to open one at Caesars Palace also because it was your first hotel project?
Yes. People ask why I did two restaurants in the same city. Already I have experiences — New York has three, L.A. has three, Australia has two. Each restaurant has its own customers. It’s a new restaurant, sure, even the regular customers are going to come here, but always customers understand which restaurants they like, and they can choose. The first six months, Hard Rock has come down a little bit, but now we can see the numbers; it’s up, too, again.
Obviously you are all over the world, and you visit all the restaurants in your portfolio. Do you still have your roster of special customers you let know when you’re in town for a specific location?
Yes. I stay three or four days in each city. I go to Tokyo, so three days I stay, which becomes Nobu Week. Same for Hong Kong. So today is Las Vegas. I travel in every city, and there’s something that is special in it. On my day off, I like to stay quiet. I don’t want to use a phone, I don’t want to see anybody, I don’t want to talk to anybody!
When you look around at this amazing roster of chefs and you think about all the chefs who have come to you in the past, how proud does that make you feel?
I don’t complain. I started as a chef when I was 18. People want to try to learn something new, and then all the young chefs come looking to work here. Then they work here and they’re happy and there are opportunities to learn. Naturally, the staff is growing and going to our restaurants opening in other places. My corporate chefs travel all over the world. If I can’t, they travel for me.
What’s next in your plans?
For me, I’m not looking for the next project. For me, I never approach projects, but a lot of people do. I have to go there, and I see, I talk and possibly feel what vision they’re looking for and then sometimes, I’m sorry, we cannot match. We have to choose, and it’s not greedy; it’s for the right partner, right location, right people.
Your Nobu Caesars Palace also is the only place in the world you chose to feature teppanyaki tables and your Wagyu tasting. What is special about that experience here and about the customer who that demands these kinds of offerings in Las Vegas?
Here all different nationalities come here. Some don’t eat meat. We have a teppan table in the back that cooks in the front with the fish, the vegetables, the meat, and we can show to the customer how you cook. This is more like action, more entertainment.
As far as gourmet and celebrity chef dining, where do you see Las Vegas ranking worldwide?
It’s a very special city, Las Vegas. All of the restaurants with the famous chefs come to the hotels. A lot of chefs are in town and have their own names on these restaurants. I’d say it’s in the Top 10.
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.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.
Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
Transport yourself to the opulent and excessive Roman Empire at Caesars Palace. But the ever-changing Caesars Palace is far from ancient. The hotel and casino is constantly raising the bar for what visitors can expect in a Vegas resort experience.
Caesars Palace features 3,348 rooms and suites in five towers, including the new luxury boutique Nobu Hotel and Restaurant, which opened Feb. 4, 2013, in the totally remodeled Centurian Tower. Caesars features 129,000 square feet of gaming space, including the Strip’s largest poker room and a 250-seat sports book. Other amenities include about two dozen restaurants, a four-level shopping mall, four pools, a spa, Pure and Poetry nightclubs and Pussycat Dolls.
Dining options include restaurants from world-renown chefs Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay and, on Feb. 4, 2013, Nobu Matsuhisa.
You never know what characters you’ll run into at Caesars with regular performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Bette Midler, Elton John and maybe even the emperor himself.