Nobu’s Japanese cuisine makes the ordinary exquisite
By Brock Radke
Photos by Peter Harasty
Since opening at the Hard Rock Hotel in 1999, the famous restaurant Nobu has remained an integral part of the Las Vegas dining scene. It’s still the standard-bearer in sushi, not to mention a template for so many fashionable, Asian-influenced eateries. Owner and chef Nobu Matsuhisa is considered the godfather of modern Japanese cuisine in America, an innovator whose original restaurant in Beverly Hills (Matsuhisa) still packs them in. Today, he watches over a global empire of 29 restaurants on five continents, soon to include his first hotel and a second Vegas restaurant at Caesars Palace.
Despite this incredible expansion, neither the cuisine nor service has slipped an inch at Nobu Hard Rock. Gentle updates to the restaurant’s décor keep the ambience fresh. Bamboo pillars and birch trees set against a black rock wall and rich, dark wood features create a serene backdrop upon which diners can construct their own experience. The hotel has gone through several layers of renovation in recent years, adding new flashes of refined fun to its edgy image, and Nobu pushes it all forward as one of the city’s top spots to see and be seen.
It’s hard to stray from Nobu’s ever-growing list of signature dishes. So many plates on this menu are so popular at so many other restaurants it’s mind boggling to consider that most of these modern Japanese standards started here. Among them: yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, white snapper sashimi with dry miso, Chilean sea bass with black bean sauce and, the most famous dish of all, marinated black cod with sweet miso. The soothing, savory flavors that mingle with this delicate fish combine to create a truly memorable dish, one that has been mimicked everywhere.
Other favorites on the sushi list plus hot and cold dishes include the bigeye tuna and asparagus roll, a quick “shooter” of rich uni (sea urchin) or fresh oyster, king crab or lobster ceviche (a particularly refreshing, citrusy treat in the sweltering desert summer), and the creamy spicy crab. All of these plates are perfect for sharing, which can also be said of the selection of kushiyaki meat skewers, and the list of meat, seafood and vegetable tempura. Sweet lobster, earthy Japanese eggplant and sea bass-jalapeño are particularly perfect choices for this light, crisp tempura treatment.
Nobu’s heavier options come in the form of yakimono, grilled or pan-fried proteins. Choose from organic chicken, luscious beef tenderloin or robust ribeye, or Tasmanian trout, and then pick a preparation: teriyaki with or without balsamic vinegar, wasabi pepper or anticucho. The latter is a combination of garlic, onion, cilantro, vinegar, lemon juice and beer, and best demonstrates the Peruvian and South American influences on Nobu’s cuisine. It’s unexpected, but these more rustic flavors play against the traditional simplicity of Japanese food in a wonderful way.
With such a diverse menu, it’s easy to see why people keep coming back to Nobu. The opportunity to create your own culinary adventure—especially with the freshest fish imaginable, treated with precision and affection—is just too tempting.
Hard Rock Hotel
6-11 p.m. daily. 702.693.5090