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Chef Nobu: Fussy is out, simple is in at namesake Las Vegas restaurant. It’s all about healthful eating

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Chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa (left) and actor and business partner Robert De Niro appeared in Las Vegas for the fifth anniversary of Hotel Nobu at Caesars Palace.
(Michael Hiller)

Chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa is laser-focused on eating healthier — and making changes to menus at his empire of 22 Nobu restaurants, including one in Las Vegas, that better align with that focus. Fussy, elaborate dishes are out. Simple preparations are in.

“ ‘Nobu style’ used to be fusion,” Matsuhisa said. “Younger chefs like complicated, but I like very simple, very clean” preparations.

The key now, he said, is “best products, keep the cooking simple, nothing complicated.”

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The Nobu restaurant inside the chef's namesake hotel (inside Caesars Palace), which just turned 5 years old.
(Michael Hiller)
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Matsuhisa recently visited Las Vegas with business partner and actor Robert De Niro, to celebrate five years of the Nobu Hotel, his posh 182-room site cloistered deep within Caesars Palace. Room prices start at $149.

Christopher Shane Chan Yai Ching, the executive chef at the Nobu Restaurant Las Vegas, said he and Matsuhisa have been bending the menu away from complex dishes with layers of ingredients and textures toward “old-school sushi preparations using simpler ingredients and cleaner flavors” that are healthier.

“This is why you can eat Nobu food five days a week and get healthy,” Matsuhisa said.

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Yellow tail sashimi with jalapeño peppers.
(Michael Hiller)

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Products used at Nobu restaurants are some the highest quality available anywhere, Chan Yai Ching said. The fish and produce are pristinely fresh. The sake is produced in tiny batches and bottled just for Nobu. The rice vinegar is one stop short of sake quality. Even the sushi rice is a boutique product, farmed in Japan then milled specifically to Nobu’s exacting specifications solely for his kitchens.

Recently, though, the venerated chef has drawn a red line with the long-standing Japanese method for preparing that sushi rice, which is traditionally tumbled with a small amount of table sugar and rice vinegar. Sugar has become a demon.

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Black cod with miso glaze at Nobu.
(Michael Hiller)

Nobu said he became “concerned about sugar and started thinking about sushi rice and what I could use instead of sugar.”

“I learned about monk fruit sugar, which is a natural sugar that has no calories, so now I am using only monk fruit sugar (instead of table sugar) in sushi rice and like it very much. It doesn’t raise the blood sugar, and it’s completely natural” like stevia, the chef said, “so it’s better for you.”

Would he ever consider substituting healthier brown rice for Japanese white rice to make his sushi?

“No no, absolutely no. Only sushi rice,” Matsuhisa said. “I’m not crazy.”

Info: Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South; (800) 727-4923.

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Michael Hiller writes about Las Vegas, restaurants, hotels and travel. Follow him on Instagram at @Checkingincheckingout.

travel@latimes.com

@latimestravel


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