This article first appeared in the WSOP 2012 special issue of World Gaming magazine.
World Gaming’s culinary expert The Panda gives some insight into one of Crown Melbourne’s hottest and most fashionable dining venues.
I am one furry bear that loves choice. I don’t mind if it’s a great sandwich or black caviar as long as it’s of the best quality. I want to feed my ravenous hunger on food that I crave, when I crave it. Crown gives me this choice. Great steaks and French, Italian and Asian cuisine are just a few of the fantastic dining options available, and Crown always has something new and exciting to offer. Asian food is probably my favorite, from a steaming hot bowl of noodles all the way up to silver service dining. I am often seen at one of my favorite Japanese teppanyaki restarants, Koko, and Silks does fantastic contemporary Chinese.
The most internationally famous of all Crown’s dining outlets must be Nobu. Dining here is an experience that should be on top of everyone’s list. Contemporary Japanese fusion is about as close as I can come to describing Nobu, but even then I am not doing it justice. I am not usually a fan of restaurant chains, but the fact that Nobu has managed to maintain its high standard across 26 restaurants worldwide is quite remarkable. Each and every individually renowned establishment continues to impress food critics around the globe.
The breathtaking interior design, which boasts decadent décor in dark and warm colors offers the perfect surrounding to match the cuisine. The helpful staff, innovative bar and extensive wine list further adds to the Nobu experience. If you are into stargazing then Nobu won’t disappoint as a host of international and local celebrities enjoy being wined and dined at one of Melbourne’s hottest “places to be”.
It has been a while since I last dined at Nobu and I have never had the pleasure of meeting Chef Nobu in person. I called some of my fellow “foodies” at Crown and asked if they could get me an interview with Chef Nobu, and to my surprise they already had an interview on hand, so let’s hear from the great man himself:
You started out working in a sushi restaurant in Tokyo, and then by chance a customer offered you the opportunity to work and live in Lima, Peru. Did you ever think this invitation would amount to all of the success your restaurants now have?
Chef Nobu: When I was in Tokyo, I wasn’t expecting to be able to work in foreign countries, but I always had a dream to go to other countries to live.
How influential was your relationship with Robert De Niro in helping get your first Nobu restaurant off the ground?
Chef Nobu: Robert De Niro is my partner and he trusts my cooking. We do not discuss food, but we talk about the business. We go out for a drink sometimes. Nobu New York was my first Nobu restaurant, and I couldn’t have opened it without his support.
Nobu was voted the best sushi restaurant in Los Angeles by Bon Appetit magazine and also won a Michelin star in 2007. How do you think Nobu raises the bar and outshines other Japanese restaurants?
Chef Nobu: I offer good food, good service and the customers leave fulfilled and happy. I was not thinking about receiving any titles, but I feel honored to have received a Michelin star.
Nobu is known for its signature dishes such as Yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño. Which dish do you think truly reflects the essence of your creativity and culinary technique?
Chef Nobu: It has to be my black cod with miso dish – one of Robert De Niro’s favorites; it remains one of Nobu’s most popular dishes. This is a sweet and silky fish dish that is simple, elegant and always impressive. [Christian Price, restaurant manager at Nobu in Melbourne, adds, “[Nobu’s] black cod with miso is a taste sensation that is renowned around the world for its melt in the mouth texture and a mix of sweet and savory flavours. The dish is served with den miso, which is a sweet miso and a stick of hajikami, a pickled ginger that is known for its palate cleansing characteristics. Many chefs around the world have tried to replicate Nobu’s signature dish.”]
You are based in Beverly Hills, but what is your favorite Nobu location to visit?
Chef Nobu: All of my restaurants are my favorite, but I feel most comfortable in my hometown restaurant in Beverly Hills. There are also Nobu restaurants in the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe, the Bahamas, South Africa, and even Hawaii and Russia.
How important is the architecture and design of your restaurants in creating an overall fine dining experience?
Chef Nobu: It is very important that an impression is formed when you walk into a restaurant and sit down at a table. You have to feel relaxed in the space.
These days, how involved are you in the day-to-day operations of your restaurants?
Chef Nobu: Most of my time spent in my restaurants is spent communicating with my staff, especially chefs, and greeting my customers.
Nobu is an institution; it has appeared in films like Casino and Memoirs of a Geisha, and for Gap and Rado advertising campaigns. What is your opinion on the celebrity status of Nobu and your celebrity clientele?
Chef Nobu: I’m a chef, and my life is cooking. Personally, I don’t feel like a celebrity. I’m very happy as a chef and that people from all over the world enjoy my food.