Five Years Of Noshing At Nobu Waikiki

Chef Nobu Matsuhisa celebrates five years at Waikiki Parc Hotel this month with a menu that offers a taste of some of his best-known signature dishes. While he might be a globally recognized chef known for his contemporary approach to traditional Japanese sushi, Nobu has a deep affection for Hawaii.

One of the dishes you’ll find on his celebratory anniversary menu this month was created here in the Islands. Nobu loves to tell the story of how he rummaged through Bev Gannon’s refrigerator and came up with the ingredients.

Yellowtail Jalapeno

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Yellowtail Jalapeno. Jo McGarry photos

“I was guest chef at Hali’imaile General Store with Bev Gannon and some other chefs,” he says, wearing the huge grin that’s common when he talks about food. “So, after dinner, I was hungry. But only yellowtail was left over from dinner. I went to the fridge and found jalapeno, and then I put yuzu juice and a little garlic and cilantro, and that was it.”

He wasn’t to know it then, but the dish made from leftovers in a kitchen in Hawaii was to become synonymous with his restaurant across the globe.

“It’s a Hawaii dish,” says Nobu, “that’s served all over the restaurants.”

The citrus and jalapeno may not have been first choice as accompanying ingredients to fresh fish for many chefs, but for Nobu, who spent time learning his craft in Peru, looking at fish in a different way has always been his style.

“The first time I went to a sushi bar,” he says, “I was shocked …” and he pauses for effect “… so shocked at the beauty and the color and the taste. Sushi is a very traditional food. But for me, when I first went to a sushi bar with my brother, it was very, very exciting for me. I knew then I wanted to be a sushi chef.”

He was 11 years old. After spending time in Peru and training in Japan, he left to conquer the culinary world.

“Peru helped me to create and adapt my cuisine,” he says. “With its fresh fish served with onions and garlic and cilantro and lemon, it was so different from the Japanese, which was with shoyu and more traditional tastes.”

Looking at fish differently has become Nobu’s trademark. To celebrate five years in Hawaii, a tasting menu is being offered at the restaurant as a thank you to the people who’ve helped make the restaurant a success. On the menu you’ll find that famous Yellowtail Jalapeno alongside shiromi usuzukuri, assorted tempura, black cod with miso and assorted sashimi. The omakase menu comes with rice and miso soup, and is priced at $65 per person. Served throughout the month of June, the menu reflects some of the dishes that have helped make Nobu a destination restaurant for tourists and locals alike. And if you’re lucky, this month you’ll catch a glimpse of chef as he happily spends some time in his Waikiki kitchen.

“Hawaii is the United States,” says Nobu, “but for me it feels like Asia. I love Hawaii. It’s my favorite place.”

Happy eating!