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