Tilman Fertitta joins Nobu founders Robert De Niro, chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Meir Teper in the sake ceremony at Nobu Houston. Photo by Rick Kern, Getty Images
Katy To, Christine Nguyen, Crystal Robin, Alison Coy, Kimberly Truong
Sake Master, owner of Hokusetsu Sake Fumio Hazu, Nobu Restaurant Group's Leong Loh
Nobu Houston sushi chefs prepare food during the Nobu Houston Sake Ceremony at Nobu Houston
Samuel Deutsch, Lauren Craft
Nobu founders Robert De Niro, chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Meir Teper
Monique & Corey Brewer
Katie Brass, second from left, and friends
Nobu Houston's sake ceremony a memorable night for the 200 plus invitation-only guests.
Gloria Spence, Ernest Sanders
Japanese Taiko drummers salute the official opening of Nobu Houston.
Yaz Nakaue at the Nobu Houston Galleria party.
Nobu Houston executive sushi chef Eiji Saito, executive chef Carl Murray
Nobu Founders Robert De Niro, Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Meir Teper and friends break open a 5-gallon sake barrel at the Nobu
Serving sake to the several hundred guests attending the Nobu Houston party.
Pretty people at the Nobu Houston official opening ceremony.
While Robert De Niro and Chef Nobu Matsuhisa were the certified celebrities at the invitation-only “sake ceremony,” promising to bring good fortune to their Nobu restaurant in the Houston Galleria, they remained mostly behind the scenes. In lieu of selfie opportunities with the headliners, guests’ needs for the spectacular were sated with endless streams of Nobu’s famed bites and oceans of champagne, cocktails and wine.
Star-gazing, no. People watching, yes. A glamorous parade of more than 200 Nobu friends and fans poured into the heralded second floor bastion of sushi and sake for a night that would go down as one of the city’s restaurant bests.
Throughout the party, servers circled through the crush offering Nobu style bites including De Niro’s favorite, miso-marinated black cod.
“It’s a classic,” De Niro tells PaperCity. “It’s great. I have it all the time. There’re so many other great things that Nobu makes and some that I haven’t even tried. New things that come up, they’re always great.”
Among the offerings on this evening were yellowtail sashimi skewers, crispy rice skewers with spicy tuna, jidori chicken anticucho, Waygu tacos and more, more, more. The drinks were as abundant as the hefty hors d’oeuvres. In addition to bar service, waitstaff passed Pisco Coolers, flutes of Louis Roederer Champagne, Ciroc Mango Passions and Matsuhisa Martinis with Beluga Noble Vodka, the latter De Niro’s favorite.
The Galleria Nobu is the 39th in the brand that extends worldwide with a collection of hotels including Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The sake ceremony, more amusement than reverence, is tradition with all of the Nobu properties. De Niro, Matsuhisa and their business partner Meir Teper make them all. Before the lid of the five-gallon barrel was smashed open, Teper compared the Dallas Nobu (opened in 2005) audience to that of Houston.
“We’re doing very well in Dallas. . . It is Texas, a great state,” he says. “But it feels here that people are more open and they are easy going, willing to spend money. Dallas, I think, they are a little bit more reserved and more conservative.”
Prelude to the sake smashing was a stirring performance by taiko drummers, followed by the unexpected arrival of Houston Rockets owner/billionaire Tilman Fertitta and Galleria owner, Simon CEO David Simon. Before he knew it, Fertitta was whisked back stage to schmooze with De Niro et al and invited to make a statement to guests and join in the sake ceremony.
“How lucky are we in Houston to have this group right here?” Fertitta said pointing to the Nobu trio. “Even though we’re all competitors, anytime you can get somebody like Nobu in Houston, Texas, it just makes our city even greater. . . Let’s get out and support these guys because we want this Nobu to be number one.”
The crowd cheered. The wooden mallets were raised. And the sake barrel lid split into pieces as chilled sake rained down on those near the stage. Applause, applause and sake, served in Japanese masu boxes, for all.
Fertitta’s arrival was made all the more interesting because of his bid, made only days earlier, to merge his Golden Nugget casino chain with Caesars Entertainment Corp. And we assume that would include the Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace in Vegas.
Special guest in the mix was French architect Severine Tatangelo, principal and founder of Studio PCH in Malibu, who designed not only the Houston Nobu but also the interiors for a number Nobu restaurants and hotels in the U.S. and internationally.
Opened in June, the Houston Nobu has a dedicated following, many of whom were in the mix including Lucinda and Javier Loya, Diane Lokey Farb, Dancie Ware, Katie and A.J. Brass, Lindley Arnoldy, Erin Stewart, Brian McCulloch, Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl, Monique and Corey Brewer, Brandon McClendon, and Bryanna and Nick Tutcher.