Restaurant opening parties are usually pretty subdued affairs, but that’s not the Nobu style.
Although the restaurant’s Houston location has been open since June in the Galleria, the global sushi juggernaut celebrated its official opening with a lavish party and sake ceremony on Thursday night that featured its three owners: chef Nobu Matsuhisa, co-founder Meir Teper, and legendary actor Robert De Niro.
Together they, along with various Nobu execs, David Simon, the chairman and CEO of Galleria owner Simon Property Group, and special guest Tilman Fertitta, smashed open a five gallon barrel in a ceremony meant to bring the restaurant good luck for years to come.
By all accounts, the restaurant appears to be off to a strong start. Nobu director of operations Brian Leon told CultureMap in July that it fielded 1,000 calls a day for reservations in the first week alone. If the glee with which the crowd of 200 revelers enjoyed bites like wagyu tacos and yellowtail sashimi skewers is any indication, that won't be slowing down any time soon.
“Let’s get out and support these guys, because we want their Nobu to be number one,” Fertitta told the crowd. “Remember, we are in Texas.”
Prior to the ceremony, CultureMap had the opportunity to conduct a brief interview with Matsuhisa, Teper, and De Niro.
CultureMap: How much did you know about Houston prior to the restaurant opening?
Nobu Matsuhisa: We know Dallas, because we’ve been there for over 10 years. For myself, I don’t know much [about] Houston. After it opened, the chef and the manager report on what’s going on. They’ve given me [lots] of information.
CM: Does it bother you at all that so many of your most famous dishes have been copied by restaurants all over the world?
NM: I’ve been cooking all my life. [If] people like to copy my food, I’m very proud of myself. Why do people copy? Because customers like it. Very happy to see Nobu’s food at another restaurant.
[When] a food critic like you [writes an article about] ‘a new restaurant, blah, blah, blah, black cod, yellowtail jalapeno.’ This nice review of somebody’s restaurant, at the end of the sentence, ‘just like Nobu.’ This is very good for us.
CM: Did you ever expect it to be this successful
Robert De Niro: I had no idea. I met Nobu about 30 years ago. I ate at Matsuhisa, his first restaurant. I said, if you ever want to open a restaurant in New York, let me know. That was it. I had opened the Tribeca Grill. I had some experience with opening a restaurant, having a restaurant.
I knew it would be a success in New York. I had no doubt about that. Then it just got to where it got to.
CM: You have about 40 locations now. How many more locations do you think there will be?
RDN: 400 [all laugh]
Meir Teper: We don’t have a number in mind. We will do as go along. If it’s right, we’ll do it. If it’s not right, we’re not going to do it. We’re not in a hurry or in a rush to open restaurants, because we are now also doing hotels. We prefer to do hotels with a restaurant then just an individual restaurant.
We do as long as it makes sense, and it’s something we enjoy doing without too much stress.
CM: Have you seen much of Houston or visited any other restaurants?
RDN: No, I’d like to. I regret not being able to, but next time I’ll try and do that. I haven’t been here long enough to see anything.
CM: Do you know how quickly you’ll get back here?
RDN: Not at this point. Who knows? I could be shooting a movie here in six months. Not likely, but you never know.
Portions of this interview have been edited for length and clarity