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Robert De Niro

You talking to me? When Robert De Niro first walked in to Nobu Matsuhisa’s small but cool Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles, the Japan-born chef really had no idea who he was.

Robert De Niro particularly loved Matsuhisa’s signature dish black cod with miso and became a regular whenever he came to the city. He first suggested the idea of opening a branch in New York in 1989. One taste of Nobu’s signature dish was all it took. “I had the cod and that told me right away, this guy is really special,” De Niro said. Matsuhisa demurred, saying he was too busy running his Los Angeles restaurant. According to De Niro, he told the chef, “Call me when you’re ready” and four years later he did. For his part, Matsuhisa credits De Niro for his patience and his passion.

Nobu opened in Manhattan’s edgy-but-cool Tribeca district in 1994 and became an instant hit. Madonna had to wait for a table for half an hour. A London branch opened in 1997 at the height of Cool Britannia and played host to celebrities including Brad Pitt, Elton John and Kate Moss. Tom Cruise was notoriously turned away because the restaurant was so full.

De Niro and his partners have since expanded Nobu to own 41 restaurants and opened their first Nobu hotel in 2013. Since then the hotel chain has expanded to hotels in North and South America, Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia.

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