Interview with Chef Nobu Matsuhisa of Ubon - New York, NY

October 2011

Tina Fiore: Is there a certain wine that goes especially well with sushi?

Nobu Matsuhisa: We actually have an original Chardonnay. It is produced in the Napa valley: the Heven winery. This Chardonnay is specifically made for us and I have 9 restaurants across the United States all serving it. It's the official wine for sushi.

TF: What about red wines?

NM: Like the Chardonnay, we also have a Cabernet, which is specially produced for the restaurants. It is also very popular.

TF: How many wines are currently on your wine list?

NM: Over 120, including reds, whites and dessert wines.

TF: Mr. Yamazaki, a sake expert from the Japan Prestige Sake Association, has said that high-quality sakes do not match well with sushi, because the rice flavors of sake clash with the rice in sushi. In his view, sake goes better with sashimi. Do you agree?

NM: Sushi is inherently Japanese. Sake and sushi or sashimi is always a good combination. No matter what alcohol you're drinking, sushi goes down to the stomach so easy.

TF: Do you have any dishes that go well with a certain wine?

NM: One of my signature dishes is New Style Sashimi and it goes very well with wine. I make a Monkfish Paté with Caviar and Miso Sauce that goes very well with a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.

TF: You've been called the father of New-style Japanese cuisine. What is your definition of New-Style Japanese?

NM: I grew up in Japan and studied there. My heart and my soul are Japanese, so the food that I create will always have a Japanese base. At the same time, I have traveled all over the world. I lived and worked in Peru, so my Japanese food has a South American influence. All of the countries influence my cuisine. I like the name "New-Style Japanese", but I prefer "Nobu-Style Japanese". (laughs.)

TF: Are sushi and wine pairings purely an American phenomenon? Do the Japanese drink wine with sushi as well?

NM: Actually, it is becoming very popular. In fact, at my restaurant in Tokyo, Nobu Tokyo, we sell more wine than sake!

TF: What is your personal preference: sake, beer or wine?

NM: I like wine. But we also have a special, homemade sake, which we brew ourselves, called Hokusetsu. It is wonderful. We export it to all countries except Japan. I have a cookbook coming out next January with all of my recipes, as well as information about my home-brewed sake.

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