Nobu by Rockwell Group

by Joelle

NOBU is the world’s most acclaimed Japanese restaurant — known for its innovative new-style Japanese cuisine. Nobuyuki Matsuhisa – known to the world simply as “Nobu” – is the internationally acclaimed and highly influential chef proprietor of NOBU, Matsuhisa and Ubon restaurants located around the world — from Beverly Hills to New York City, London to Tokyo, Aspen to Milan, Las Vegas to Miami Beach.

 With panoramic views overlooking Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island, NOBU InterContinental Hong Kong features a stunning yet intimate dining room (seating up to 140 persons) inclusive of a sushi bar (accommodating 9 persons).  Both the bar lounge (for up to 40 persons) and exclusive private dining room (for 12 persons) also have magnificent views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island.
NOBU InterContinental Hong Kong was Nobu Matsuhisa’s 17th restaurant to open in his growing culinary empire. It was the 6th NOBU to open internationally; and until the April 2011 opening of NOBU Beijing, it was the first NOBU inAsia outside of Japan.  With the recent openings of Nobu Capetown, Nobu Moscow, Nobu Mexico City, Nobu Budapest and Nobu Bejing, Nobu Matsuhisa now has 27 restaurants in 23 cities, spanning five continents.

Named one of the world’s “Hot Tables” on the prestigious Condé Nast Traveler USA “Hot List” in the May 2007 issue, NOBU InterContinental Hong Kong, has created excitement on Asia’s culinary scene since its opening in late December 2006. It has also been voted one of Asia’s Top 20 Restaurants in the past three editions of the Miele Guide Asia.



Nobu commissioned Rockwell Group of New York to design InterContinental Hong Kong. The New York based design group, under the direction of David Rockwell, designed the original Nobu in New York in 1994, and have over the years designed Nobu Next Door in New York, Nobu Las Vegas, Nobu Dallas, Nobu Fifty Seven in New York, and most recently Nobu Atlantis, Paradise Island in The Bahamas.

The design concept is  inspired by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s innovative cooking and the imagery of the Japanese countryside where he grew up. Traditional and modern Japanese elements, combined with the influence of water inspired by the adjacent Victoria Harbour, culminate in this intimate, yet dynamic dining experience designed by Rockwell Group. Food and architecture evolve into waves of movement and serenity, with a visual vocabulary that is inspired by the ocean as well as the culture of the Japanese countryside.



Patrons enter through a wooden portal of stacked walnut timbers as a transition from the hotel into the serene world of NOBU InterContinental Hong Kong.  Richly adorned benches tucked into a series of wooden frames flank the cocktail lounge.  These frames are employed throughout the restaurant to both articulate the space and frame the breathtaking harbour views beyond.  The walls and columns are sheathed in tree bark-inspired etched bronze with the bar surrounding a cascade of over 7,700 black riverstones.


The terrazzo floor is patterned with ripples referencing the ocean bed, and the heavy hewn18.7 foot bar, made from one Ficus tree trunk, as if carved by nature, appears to float on glowing onyx like driftwood bobbing on the open ocean.  Iridescent glass beads in shades of lavender, magenta and aubergine bejewel the deep recess of the bar.  The image by acclaimed New York photographer / visual arts artist, Michael Palladino is that of Japanese cherry blossoms, a signature feature of the Nobu experience.  Cozy lounge seating is nestled into bronze framed alcoves. A lustrous iridescent mix of aquatic and earthen hues of Venetian plaster on the ceiling and banquette seating areas suffuse the ambiance with a soft light, alluding to the multitude and rich colours of marine life.


The motion of the sea has inspired a metaphor of ocean life that envelops the restaurant.  Evocative of the movement of an ocean wave, the sea urchin ceiling gently ripples from the center of the main dining room, appearing as fluid motion crafted from over 450,000 tiny sea urchin spines (shells) and poetically reflecting the water below. The room is surrounded by banquette seating layered with rich, textured fabrics inspired from deep sea coral, framing the view of the harbour beyond.


The scorched-ash sushi bar with a glowing onyx base is nestled in a space clad in custom-made bamboo embedded terrazzo. The resulting random pattern reads like the foamy bubbles as the waves collapse on the shoreline.  This combination of traditional and modern elements has become an iconic element in the new NOBU restaurants. The material frames the back-lit onyx sushi bar and the sushi chef, thus creating a backdrop for the staging of the sushi chef’s performance as they prepare their cuisine.  The flames of the wood-burning oven are visible through a central opening beyond the sushi bar, bringing warmth and energy to the dining room.


The procession through the space terminates in the private dining room. The entrance portal is wrapped in peen hammered bronze reminiscent of the pebbles on land; and glowing translucent forms fall from the ceiling, like a cluster of jellyfish suspended in motion.  Once again, the cherry blossoms appear as floor-to-ceiling artwork created by Michael Palladino, whose six different images of cherry blossoms were then covered by Maya Romanoff in tiny sparkling beads reminiscent of early morning dew. This intimate space, drawing on the inspiration of the larger space, is highlighted by custom-designed light fixtures by Ted Abramczyk of New York.

More facts… 450,000 pencil sea urchin spines adorning the ceiling.


The sea urchin spines are actually part of the sea urchin shells, which wash ashore and are collected along the beach as fossils. Each sea urchin spine is hung individually from a hook that connects the spine to a tight mesh grid on the ceiling.  It took 60 workers approximately 8400 man-hours to assemble the sea urchin spines and fabricate them for the ceiling design.

7,700 river stones were used for the river rock wall in the NOBU bar lounge.


The bar, which is 18.7 feet, is made from a single Ficus tree trunk. The tree, which was a victim of Tropical Storm Prapiroon in early August, 2006, is approximately 155 years old, as advised by the woodwork factories and carpenters who carved it. The main body of the tree was about 81 feet tall (i.e. approx. 25 m. or 8 storeys high), and its diameter ranged from approx 0.4 m at top to 1.8 – 2 m. at the bottom.

Every part of this Ficus tree was used in the interior of NOBU InterContinental Hong Kong. The main body of the tree was used in its natural state for the Cocktail bar top and supports while the wood shroud was used for the bar top.

As per InterContinental Hong Kong’s Managing Director Jean-Jacques Reibel, “From its superb Japanese cuisine to its high profile clientele, NOBU InterContinental Hong Kong has been a welcome addition to the Hong Kong and Asian dining scene.  Having a chef of Nobu’s caliber open a restaurant at our hotel further enhances not only InterContinental Hong Kong’s reputation for innovative food & beverage concepts, but also Hong Kong’s position as one of the greatest culinary cities in the world.”


Commenting on his Hong Kong restaurant, Nobu Matsuhisa says, “I selected InterContinental Hong Kong as my partner and address in Hong Kong because it has the best view, location and reputation. I choose Hong Kong for my first restaurant in Asia (outside of Japan) because Hong Kong is extremely cosmopolitan, fashionable and international. Hong Kong people are very sophisticated and have the taste and appetite for high quality food at world-class restaurants. Also, many of our regular clients who travel internationally are dining at NOBU restaurants around the world, so we are delighted to greet them here in Hong Kong.”

About NOBU Cuisine:

Nobu Matsuhisa draws upon his classical training at a Tokyo sushi bar, his life abroad in Peru and Argentina, and his travels around the world to create a whole new trend in Japanese cooking.

NOBU InterContinental Hong Kong showcases Nobu’s innovative Japanese cuisine with signature dishes such as fresh yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, black cod saikyo yaki, toro tartar with caviar, white fish tiradito, sashimi salad with Matsuhisa dressing, rock shrimp tempura, soft shell crab roll and new style sashimi.


The menu at NOBU InterContinental Hong Kong also features new creations showcasing local ingredients, such as Salt Baked Black Cod in Lotus leaf with Yuzu and Dry Miso and Hirame XO Salsa. Other locally inspired dishes include Roasted Baby Pork with Jalapeno Salsa, Yellowtail Tempura Roll, Rib Eye Steak Miso Zuke (marinated in miso, then grilled), King Crab Soufflé with Truffle and Botan Ebi and Uni New Style.



Joelle’s Picks:

NOBU InterContinental Hong Kong

Second Floor, InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Restaurant reservations: (852) 2313-2323 / Reservations fax: (852) 2366-5205

 Open daily for lunch from 12 noon – 2:30pm and dinner from 6:00pm – 11:00pm.

Attire: Smart casual. The NOBU Bar lounge is open daily 12 noon-2:30pm and from 6:00pm to midnight.

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