A Big Fish


Bet­ter known as Nobu, Nobuyuki Mat­suhisa trav­elled from his na­tive Ja­pan to South Amer­ica be­fore set­tling in Los An­ge­les from where he has built a global culi­nary em­pire. His lat­est out­post, in Doha, is his sec­ond in the Mid­dle East but it raises the bar for the group as a whole.

The year is 1994. Robert De Niro strikes a strate­gic part­ner­ship with Nobuyuki Mat­suhisa, the Ja­panese chef and gas­tro­nomic ge­nius, known as ‘Nobu’ by those who fre­quent his epony­mous Mat­suhisa restau­rant in Bev­erly Hills, to open the first Nobu restau­rant in New York. That flag­ship in Tribeca would be­come the ge­n­e­sis of a ver­i­ta­ble din­ing em­pire. To­day, there are 32 Nobu restau­rants span­ning five con­ti­nents, from Mel­bourne to Manila, Moscow to Milan, Miami to Mex­ico City. Al­though each is char­ac­terised by time­lessly chic interiors, usu­ally within lead­ing ho­tels – Ar­mani in Milan, J.W. Mar­riot in Beijing, Kempin­ski in Bu­dapest, Fair­mont in Monte Carlo, At­lantis in Dubai and so on – the one in Doha takes things even fur­ther. It too is set in a ho­tel but the scale is un­prece­dented; it’s the largest in the world and also the first be set in a free­stand­ing struc­ture. A me­an­der­ing road hug­ging the ma­rina of the Four Sea­sons Ho­tel Doha leads one to its very edge. Here, dra­mat­i­cally sur­rounded by the wa­ters of the Ara­bian Gulf, stands the soli­tary build­ing, con­cen­tric in shape and re­sem­bling a hov­er­ing space­craft. The de­sign, as it turns out, is in­spired by a coiled shell, ar­chi­tect David Rock­well’s sub­tle nod to the hum­ble beginnings of Doha as a pearl div­ing town. This theme runs through­out the interiors of the tri-storey, 24,000 square-me­tre build­ing. Spher­i­cal lamps of blown glass dan­gle over the main din­ing area like clus­ters of lu­mi­nous pearls. Closely ar­ranged rows of taut, jute-like rope cas­cade across the room; they mimic fish­ing nets and also art­fully func­tion as di­aphanous bar­ri­ers. The two in­door bars, one ex­clu­sively non-smok­ing, are named White Pearl and Black Pearl. While ev­ery el­e­ment down to the dis­tance be­tween ta­bles is metic­u­lously cal­i­brated to live up to the rep­u­ta­tion of Nobu restau­rants be­ing among the hippest on earth, the pri­mary al­lure

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