“Few restaurants can boast an international reputation, and few chefs can boast of having their creative vision of contemporary cuisine replicated around the world with as much success. Nobu can and the Fairmont Monte Carlo’s spin on the concept has reached new heights of absolute perfection,” reads some marketing copy on the restaurant’s website.
A brazen, unabashed claim, yet a delicious, unashamed truth.
Following a tedious string of bad luck, from fire hazards to failed partnerships sending him to the brink of near suicide, chef Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa was gifted a lifeline in 1987.
A $70,000 loan from a friend proved the golden ticket, with the birth of Matsuhisa in California’s sunlit city of Beverly Hills. An anchorage for tinselled glitterati within the USA and beyond, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa revelled in the kitchen of his low key yet classy flagship, ready to introduce his fusion blend of Japanese cuisine with a Peruvian flair including THAT signature black cod miso.
A legion of Tinseltown fans swiftly followed, one ardent devotee being Robert De Niro after his first Matsuhisa encounter in 1988. Following years of persistent persuasion from the Hollywood heavyweight, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa finally caved in with the 1994 opening of Nobu’s first luxe outpost in New York’s financial hub, and thus Nobu’s world domination began.
Hedonistic diners and guests from around the world can satiate their famished Nobu appetites across five continents, in 50 sumptuous restaurants, and 13 fetching hotels from Cape Town, Marbella, Dubai and more (as of Dec ’21).
In December 2013, the Nobu family welcomed with gusto, a glam new addition into their flourishing fusion realm, in the paramount of Monaco’s plutocrat playground of Monte Carlo. Proudly parading their illustrious standing as Monaco’s first haute cuisine destination, Nobu resides within the synonym of prestige of the Fairmont hotel and resort, along with their seventh floor neighbour, the rooftop socialite utopia of Nikki Beach.
The hotel itself holds an essential part in the residing and visiting Monegasque’s lives, bordering the idolised bend of the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix circuit and boasting its own private beach by the turquoise shores of Larvotto bay.
Prepare to lose yourself into an everlasting trance with the restaurant’s exterior backdrop, immersed in the shimmering, panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, which appeared to create a serene mirage of the venue floating above the ripples.
A backlit bar awaits your presence as you enter, and emits neon blue, translucent rays that radiate into the rainbow display of tipples neatly displayed in a pyramid-like setup. Gleaming white walls are embellished with monumental blue mirrors, and luminous sheered curtains for a touch of intimate dinner solitude, while bespoke furnishings of circular top tables and sapphire booths garnish the smooth timber wood flooring.
The belle of the ball is the ceiling sculpture, seeing countless linking steel rods amassed throughout the entire ceiling. This artistry is a play on chopsticks as a bow to chef Nobuyuki’s world renowned fusion fare, whilst also drawing inspiration from the complex world of coral, lying below the depths of the sea.
A proposal for my favourite lychee martini was accepted without a pause, coupled with the chance to revel in the balmy, Mediterranean ambience of the sun-kissed terrace. Nothing could beat the ice cold, sweet watermelon like flavours swirled with a slight sharpness of lime, finished off with a perfume of blossoming vigour from the St Germain Elderflower Liqueur as I watched the sun rays descend, and bid their goodnight.
For the utmost Nobu feasting voyage of Japan’s cooking heritage with Peru’s vivacious gastronomy flair, diners are deeply recommended to give carte blanche to the gifted chef Jerome Lorvellec by simply stating, ‘I leave it up to you’.
The line is a literal translation from the rather familiar omakase, which serves as the restaurant’s highly coveted tasting menu. Guests can sample some of Nobu’s finest menu specialities and hand crafted sushi creations, blending East Asian flavours with a sprinkle of South American spice totally catered around your dietary needs and desired tastes. Vegetarians are by no means neglected with delicious tofu steak marinated in a garlic infused anticucho, meaty warm mushroom salads, and vibrant oven roasted vegetables, to name a few.
Delicate yellowtail had a rich lightness on the palate, with subtle sweet notes resting on a bed of crisped rice, while thin marbled slices of Simmental tenderloin married into a tangy sesame dressing, and salted seaweed finish from the sea urchins to complement the lean, juice brimming meat with a touch of nuttiness.
Whilst maki rolls and Tataki classics are dime a dozen in Japanese eateries, the Nobu touch just makes these staples all the worthwhile. The moist, jalapeño spiced helpings of the Toro tuna underbelly sliced like butter with my chopsticks, followed by the tender salmon and creamy avocado maki rolls topped with smidgens of spicy mayonnaise, and finely chopped spring onions.
The hot options are beyond reasonable doubt worth saving a stomach or two for, one compulsory course being, of course, the black cod miso. A dish that is now commonplace in many a fine dining location, yet barely a handful of these clones hold a candle to the native ingenious recipe. Hearty flakes of the buttery, satin like seafood glistened under the light as it pulled apart with ease as it mingled into the syrup sticky marinade, sweet yet salted from the miso and soy, with the final flavour elevation from the splash of clean mild sake.
The black cod undoubtedly played a role in making Nobu a fine food powerhouse, however, the Kobe beef holds an equally illustrious feather in the luxe fusion eatery. Practically melting through the knife, the smoky grilled essence played in sync to the Latin spiced marinade massaged into the smooth depths of this prized rosy red meat, simply accompanied next to a helping of smashed avocado and cherry tomatoes.
Keeping the meal in equal epicurean company, is a resplendent collection of high brow spirits, champagnes, and Hokusetsu sake brought over from Japan’s Sado Island, exclusively for Nobu. The earthy, deep bodied sake offering of the Onikoroshi ‘Devil Killer’ proved the perfect companion for the Kobe beef, while the tuna made a merry match with a flute of sparkling Taittinger Brut.
A heartfelt feast calls for an exotic dessert finale, in my case a tropical fruit selection of ripe mango, delicate chewy mochi filled with velvet ice cream, and Nobu’s signature cheesecake accompanied with a lightening, citrus sorbet yuzu.
A nightcap in the cocktail bar offers a faultless conclusion to an impeccable evening experience. Savour, say, a mango passion martini topped with a full bloom yellow flower as you lean back to witness the colour changing lighting show of pink, blue and purple, reflecting on the pure white rod exhibit which creates a truly, enrapturing visual as you await your carriage to whisk you home.
In a nutshell
Nobu may have prospered into an eponymous empire across the planet, however each of Nobuyuki’s gourmet and five-star shelters ring true to the soul and ethos that formed this formidable foundation.
Crediting his prosperity to his one time myriad of failures, this culinary maestro remains a fresh breath of humble air by sharing a critical secret ingredient never to be neglected; ‘kokoro’ or as we would say, your heart.
Nobu Monte Carlo remains open daily for dinner from 6.30pm to 12am.
Address: 12 Avenue des Spelugues, 98000 Monaco, Monte Carlo
Phone: +377 97 707 097