When Chef Nobu Matsuhisa was first approached with the idea of opening a restaurant in Miami, he took a flight from Los Angeles to check out the scene.
“The area called South Beach, with its white sands, became an immediate favorite,” he wrote in the book Nobu Miami: The Party Cookbook. He praises the sea, the sky, the Art Deco architecture and, of course, the culinary offerings: “The fish here is fresh, firm and meaty, the tastes clean and pure. There’s citrus aplenty, and tropical fruit from the Caribbean and South America is easy to get.”
Since 2001, Nobu Miami has been making the most of that abundance, remaining a South Beach hot spot over the years. Matsuhisa combined his training in Tokyo as well as experience operating restaurants in Peru and Argentina to create a menu that features sushi, ceviche, steak and more.
Now, the chef whose culinary empire spans the globe is working on his next act in Miami Beach: the 210-room Nobu Hotel at Eden Roc Miami Beach, which will include a signature restaurant and bar.
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The restaurant is slated to open in August, with some hotel rooms following by the end of November. By January of 2016, all rooms are expected to be ready for guests.
When the hotel opens, it will be only one of a handful of Nobu Hotels so far. There are outposts in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace and in Manila, and a Riyadh location is under construction. In Miami, the Nobu property will exist within the historic Eden Roc.
During a stop in Miami Beach earlier this year to check on the project, Nobu spoke to the Miami Herald about his jet-setting lifestyle, his upcoming projects and what patrons should expect from the new Miami Beach location.
Q. Where is home?
A. Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo — three locations. I’m traveling once a month to Tokyo, back to L.A. ... Next month I start traveling to four different continents.
Q. How long have you been in Miami?
A. Fifteen years.
Q. What made the city seem like a good fit for what you do 15 years ago?
A. We had success before Miami, in New York. New York people in the winter, a lot of people come to Miami, so 15 years ago when we opened at the Shore Club, it was an immediate success.
Q. Over the last 15 years a lot of talented chefs and great restaurants have not managed to survive here. Why do you think you’ve been able to be successful for so long and stay in such high demand?
A. I am the chef — I am Nobu — but I never think about myself. Restaurants have to be teams. People are going to restaurants looking for good food, good service. My philosophy is I don’t count how many people are coming, how much sales, how much profit; my point is I like to see people eating, smiling, laughing. So my teams at any new restaurant, [they need] somebody [who] used to be at Nobu kitchen, Nobu food, Nobu manager, experience. It used to be the family was small; now the family is growing. Maybe I’ve been lucky person because I have a good family.
Q. At 65 a lot of people think about retiring or slowing down, not traveling 10 months of the year.
A. Hahaha. ... I like to keep mentally young. But sure. Everyone someday is going to die. When I am going to die, I would like to say thank you to my life. I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to die.’ I want to say thank you to my life.
Q. How many times [a year] do you come to Miami?
A. Several times a year — as much as possible.
Q. If people have been longtime customers of Nobu at the Shore Club in Miami Beach, will this experience be different?
A. The Shore Club, we lease that space. Now with Nobu Hotels, we can make more of a warm experience. Not to mention bigger. We have the bar, we have the pool, we have more casual restaurants. It’s a concept that’s much bigger. So it means that you’re a customer at the Shore Club, you come here and it’s, ‘Wow.’
Lives in: Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo
Title: Executive chef and owner of Nobu Restaurants
Number of restaurants: 38 around the world
Lives in: Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo
Family: Married to wife Yoko for 42 years with two daughters and two granddaughters
Upcoming project: Nobu Hotel at Eden Roc Miami Beach with Nobu Restaurant and Bar Lounge