Restaurant News

Robert de Niro, Nobu Matsuhisa and Friends Host Nobu Houston Inaugural Sake Ceremony

Nobu Founders Robert De Niro, Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Meir Teper, and friends break open a 5-gallon sake barrel at the Nobu Houston Sake Ceremony.
Nobu Founders Robert De Niro, Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Meir Teper, and friends break open a 5-gallon sake barrel at the Nobu Houston Sake Ceremony. Photo courtesy Getty Images for Nobu
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.  
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Taiko drummers kicked off the Sake Ceremony.
Photo by Mai Pham
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.
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The 5-gallon barrel of Nobu “The Sake” Junmai Daiginjo.
Photo by Mai Pham
“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.
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Robert de Niro and Nobu Matsuhisa offer a celebratory toast.
Photo by Mai Pham

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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Crispy rice topped with tuna tartare.
Photo by Mai Pham
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Nobu-style tacos filled with tuna, salmon, wagyu.
Photo by Mai Pham
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Crispy rice topped with avocado and gold flakes.
Photo by Mai Pham
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Alaskan code lettuce boats.
Photo by Mai Pham
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Marinated salmon boats.
Photo by Mai Pham
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Toro tartare topped with caviar, a Nobu signature.
Photo by Mai Pham
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JIdori chicken wings with monk fruit anticucho.
Photo by Mai Pham
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Hamachi sashimi with jalapeno.
Photo by Mai Pham
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Raspberry citrus tarts.
Photo by Mai Pham
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Mai Pham is a contributing freelance food writer and food critic for the Houston Press whose adventurous palate has taken her from Argentina to Thailand and everywhere in between -- Peru, Spain, Hong Kong and more -- in pursuit of the most memorable bite. Her work appears in numerous outlets at the local, state and national level, where she is also a luxury travel correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Contact: Mai Pham