It was just after 7 o'clock last night when celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa, one of the most famous Japanese chefs in the world, and the man behind the worldwide chain of Nobu Restaurants, took the stage at Nobu Houston in the Galleria.
“We are here tonight because this is number 39,” he said. “We do that every time — doing sake ceremonies like this — because we like to share the happiness with everyone.” A traditional Japanese ritual that involves breaking open a sake barrel with a wooden mallet, the Nobu Houston’s Sake Ceremony was a momentous occasion for two reasons: First, it would serve as the grand opening and official inauguration of Nobu Houston; second, it would be the first time that all three of its founders — Matsuhisa, the actor Robert de Niro, and actor/producer Meir Teper — were able to visit the location together.
The celebrations kicked off with the rhythmic beat of taiko drums, followed by brief speeches from the all the principals. De Niro, taking the stage, was succinct: “Hi everybody, happy to be here, enjoy yourselves tonight,” he said before passing the mike to Teper, who gave some insight into how Nobu Houston came to be.
“We’ve been trying to come to Houston for many years, and we finally, last year, found the right partner to come here to open Nobu Restaurant,” said Teper. The partner, who took the stage briefly, was John Alexander, Chairman and CEO of Crown Hotels and Resorts.
Joining the stage as well was Simon Malls Chairman and CEO, David Simon, as well as Houston resident billionaire and Houston Rockets owner, Tilman Fertitta. “Anytime you can get somebody like Nobu in Houston, Texas, it just makes our city even greater,” said Fertitta, who encouraged the crowd to make Houston the number one restaurant in the franchise.
For the Sake Ceremony itself, Nobu explained that it was filled with the best sake — five gallons of his own Nobu “The Sake” Junmai Daiginjo — and that hammering the lid would cause it to “open,” a symbol of the opening ceremony. So on the count of “One, two, three,” the hammers came down, the lid was broken, and the sake was scooped from the barrel and served to guests in square Japanese masu boxes.
Ceremony aside, Nobu Houston wowed the 200-plus guests with a procession of impressive canapes culled from the restaurant’s menu. The Nobu-style mini tacos, filled with tuna or salmon or Wagyu, were extremely popular. So were the lettuce cups filled with Alaskan black cod and topped with a tuft of crispy-somethings; the slices of hamachi (yellowtail) sashimi rolled and topped with slivers of jalapeno; the spoons topped with decadent toro (fatty tuna) tartare and caviar; the cups filled with sushi rice and topped with sweet shrimp; cocktails and so much more. Scroll down below to feast your eyes on some of the night’s delicious samples.
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