Fusion of the Minds 6

Chefs Nobu Matsuhisa and 
Frank Gorriceta ensure that Nobu’s latest concept makes a big splash 
in Newport Beach.

In my foolish youth, it was an unsaid rule that I never ordered fish. (This, of course, excluded lox and salmon sashimi–I never said it was a rule that made sense). Most restaurants where I dined back then served fish simply fried or just plain overcooked to the point of no recognition. Dry, flaky and too fishy–that was how I described piscatorial fare. Then, I tasted Nobu’s miso black cod. One bite converted me. It was that easy. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa prepared the fish with a sweet, salty, perfectly umami, miso glaze. That tender piece of cod was my introduction to the chef’s cooking and it forever changed my mind about fish. It also became one of the Nobu’s signature dishes.

Fast-forward to 2017, and now, you see some sort of miso-glazed fish on almost every menu in southern California. Yet, it was Nobu’s black cod that created this long-lasting trend. It truly was a novel concept in 1987, when Matsuhisa first opened in Beverly Hills. For American diners, Asian fusion fare was innovative. For Matsuhisa, it was a style that took years to perfect.

Matsuhisa, who hailed from Saitama, Japan, spent several years cooking in South America. This is where the young chef discovered his affinity for Peruvian flavors. Peru is a country known for its ethnic diversity. It is a melting pot of Asian immigrants that married into the culture and shared rich Japanese and Chinese influences. Asian-Peruvians constitute 20 percent of Peru’s population. Since his access to Japanese produce was limited, Nobu conjured up new combinations. In Lima, he melded Latin ingredients with Japanese flavors. These dishes became Asian-fusion classics: Miso glazes, jalapenos with yellowtail tuna, squid pasta. These were all Nobu innovations.

Robert De Niro and restaurateur Drew Nieporent also took notice when Matsuhisa opened. They invested in the talented chef and soon swanky Nobu concepts sprouted all over the world. Now Nobu has more than 30 locations, in cities such as New York, Malibu, London, Milan, Dubai, Monte Carlo, and the newest locale in Newport Beach.

Tucked away in the quaint new Lido Marina Village development, overlooking the pristine yachts parked away neatly in their dock slips, sits Nobu Newport Beach. Upon entering the first floor bar area, guests might opt to stroll out to the open-air back patio. There, sits the Nobu Grand Cordon Bar. “It’s the first in the world,” says executive chef Frank Gorriceta. Each month, a rotating menu of the finest award-winning cocktails from around the world will be served here. While the bar area is relaxingly casual, most patrons opt to ascend up a spiraling staircase to the second floor dining room.

There, a large sushi bar creates a stage for Gorriceta’s talented sushi chefs to show off their skills. The best part of visiting a refined sushi bar is watching the chefs slice and plate each delicate piece. The notion, “eat with your eyes,” completely befits this experience. Besides sushi, Gorriceta oversees a larger open-air kitchen. Dishes that emerge reflect Nobu’s attention to subtly and detail.