While the German spring is still a long time coming, the Japanese spring moved into the Mandarin Oriental this week. The in-house fine restaurant Matsuhisa invited to the Hanami dinner on Wednesday evening on the occasion of the visit of head chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Hanami literally means “to look at flowers” and stands for the cherry blossom season in Japan, says Matsuhisa in an interview with the SZ. As a child, he was able to admire the pink blossoms in his own garden and liked to be woken up in the morning by the noises and smells from the kitchen when his mother and grandmother were cooking for him.
Today, the 74-year-old probably wakes up more often to the noise of turbines. Although he describes Los Angeles as the center of his life, he travels ten months a year. His restaurant and hotel empire, which he has been building in part with Robert De Niro as a celebrity friend and partner since the 1990s, spans five continents and counts around seventy restaurants. The Munich branch opened in 2015; Matsuhisa had last visited her before the pandemic. He now prefers to leave the training in his restaurants to the younger generation, says the sushi master, whose style is often referred to as a Japanese-Peruvian fusion. He is constantly designing and perfecting new dishes with his “corporate chefs” and has also been shown new technologies. But at the end of the day all he needs is a knife, pan, oil and fire. “Keep it simple,” he says.
“Keep it simple” is not exactly the motto of the evening
“Keep it simple” is not exactly the motto of the evening. 100 invited guests squeeze past the photographer- and cherry blossom-lined red carpet into Mandarin Oriental’s opulent foyer. Matsuhisa himself poses with hotel director Dominik Reiner behind the oyster bar, while his guests warm up with champagne and a DJ. Speaking of warming up, Bayern professionals Lucas Hernández and Benjamin Pavard look almost youthful next to Matsuhisa in a black shirt and sweater instead of a red jersey. It’s no wonder that Lothar Matthäus prefers to sneak in later for the seated meal than to queue up here.
Meanwhile, the flashbulbs culminated at the elevators. Presenter Eva Padberg in a floral blouse and pants ensemble and model Stefanie Giesinger in a pink, partly transparent evening dress must have thought of cherry blossoms when choosing their outfits. The Carpendale couple stealthily take the elevator upstairs to present themselves to the photographer a little later dressed up and without their son Mads. One door down, presenter and actress Palina Rojinski climbs out of the elevator, like a ninja in a black, skin-tight jumpsuit with a knucklebone. Rojinski has often eaten in Matsuhisa’s restaurants, but she says she’s getting to know him personally for the first time this evening. DJs and photographers don’t make it easy for her, because of the volume she has to imagine herself almost yelling in the head chef’s ear.
Actor Florian David Fitz has come with sister Stefanie and is greeted by Palina Rojinski with a joyful “Flooo!” welcomed. Fitz documents the encounter on his Instagram account with a joint photo and the words “Look what was on my sushi platter! How nice!” Although he shouldn’t have gotten any that evening, since he’s actually a vegetarian and had therefore pre-ordered the vegetarian menu. But even with the oysters, Fitz, who is eating at Matsuhisa’s for the first time and therefore gets a short “event briefing” from Oliver Pocher at the oyster bar, is tempted. Maybe he’ll make an exception tonight, says Fitz, his sister notes: “He’s not that strict.”
In the meantime, all guests have arrived and are officially welcomed by Matsuhisa and hotel manager Reiner on the foyer stairs, moderated by Palina Rojinski and followed by a performance of Japanese drumming. At this point, one could almost forget that one actually came to eat, if the hungry crowd did not then make their way to the restaurant on the first floor.
Arriving at the seat, the first of six courses is already waiting, three kinds of sashimi of salmon, amberjack and scallop. In addition to the sushi in the first main course, it will remain the strongest course. Because the raw fish shows Matsuhisa’s “USP”, highest quality reduced to the essentials. With the sole with shiso salsa and the Wagyu beef with balsamic vinegar and truffle, it almost gets too much of a fusion. The loud music and the hustle and bustle in the room also distract from the food, more Hanami happening than dignified Hanami dinner. No wonder Matsuhisa, who toils through the evening table by table, after countless faces and photos, exhausted, sinks into the chair, protected behind a pillar. And yet always smiling.