Matsuhisa Vail: sushi, sashimi and Latin-Asian influences
Nobu Matsuhisa views his flagship Matsuhisa restaurants — there are just six in the world — as nearer and dearer to his heart than his more prolific Nobu restaurants.
That’s why, when you dine at Matsuhisa Vail, you feel like he could be the one back in the kitchen personally preparing his signature broiled black cod with miso for your table.
Successful cooking comes from the heart, Nobu Matsuhisa believes. In his personal message to his guests posted on the Matsuhisa Vail website, he talks of communicating his heart — or kokoro, in Japanese — through every dish he makes.
The grand dining room boasts some of the best views of Vail Mountain in town, but you might forget to notice once imaginative dishes like his Peruvian style octopus — thinly sliced and topped with soy sea salt, yuzu juice, achiote chili paste and cilantro — start making their way to your table.
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Nobu Matsuhisa has a global empire of restaurants and hotels, but his Vail dining room feels special. Peruvian-influenced Japanese cuisine is the star, a fusion that has propelled Matsuhisa to worldwide chef stardom and success.
The menu is extensive, and while Matsuhisa certainly features a lot of sashimi and sushi on the menu, the menu reaches far outside of that realm into stimulating Latin-Asian territory.
Ingredients are king at Matsuhisa. Manager Jordan Harrill describes the products used as the best in the world.
And he would know because Matsuhisa often calls his staff excited about new inspiration he found for a dish while visiting another country. He’ll call and get it added to the menu right away, and then he’ll call again a week later to see how customers liked it.
“At 62 years old, he’s one of the most progressive chefs, still, on the planet,” Harrill says. “He cares so much. He’s so passionate about not just the food, but the experience, and that’s really important in order to survive in such a competitive world like this.”
Matsuhisa doesn’t just merely survive, though; he’s a culinary force. Perhaps the genius in most of his dishes is in the simplicity. He lets the top quality ingredients do the talking while he merely adds to the conversation with flavors that complement rather than mask or overpower.
He’ll take a delicate piece of toro, the lusciously fatty tuna belly, and accent it with a touch of yuzu citrus, garlic and jalepeno. Or he’ll find a way to take a beautiful piece of king crab and fry it in a tempura batter so light that you somehow forget you’re eating food that’s fried.
And just when you’re thinking Matsuhisa’s menu is a novella of oceanic perfection, you’re practically blind-sided by succulent lamb chops with a rich Peruvian pepper dipping sauce or “new style” beef sashimi, which is seared by pouring hot sesame oil and olive oil over thinly-sliced beef that has been seasoned with citrus, garlic, ginger and scallions, among other flavors (new style sashimi is also available as scallops, salmon or white fish).
The only real problem with dining at Matsuhisa is the decision-making process. The menu is so enticing and exciting that it’s hard to choose what to order. But not to worry, that’s what the Omakase tasting menu is for. Sit back and enjoy the view while the chef sends out the best dishes of the night. Put your trust in Nobu Matsuhisa’s heartfelt creations and you won’t leave disappointed, or hungry.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.