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NOBU, from restaurants to hotels – an interview with actor Robert de Niro

This isn’t so much a story about Robert De Niro, the Academy Award-winning actor. It’s about Robert De Niro, the hotelier. De Niro is a shareholder in Nobu Hospitality, the restaurant and entertainment company of chef Nobu Matsuhisa, which is developing its first-ever Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace.

The actor persuaded Nobu to build his first restaurant in the Tribeca area of New York City. Today, Nobu operates more than two dozen restaurants around the world, including Nobu at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. De Niro said it made sense the company branched out into the hotel world.

“There were many people asking us to do a restaurant in their hotels because Nobu gave them a certain cache,” De Niro, 69, told the Review-Journal on Sunday during an exclusive interview at Caesars Palace.

“We thought, ‘Why not do our own hotel?’ ” De Niro said. “We formed a company and said, ‘Let’s do this.’ We put our feelers out there with everyone.”

De Niro is playing a central role in the $30 million renovation of the 181 rooms and suites inside Caesars’ Centurion Tower, the second-oldest tower at the Strip resort.

Earlier this year, De Niro joined Chef Nobu and fellow Nobu shareholder Meir Teper in Las Vegas to review furnishings and handpick certain design elements for the rooms.

He joked that he’s hands-on, but not a “micro-manager” like Sam “Ace” Rothstein, the character he portrayed in the 1995 film “Casino,” who was based on the late Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. In the movie, Rothstein chastised a hotel pastry chef to make sure every blueberry muffin served had an equal number of blueberries.

De Niro, who was also in Las Vegas last week to film scenes for the movie, “Last Vegas,” said he enjoys the hotel design element.

“If I see anything that doesn’t feel right or is working against what it should be, I tell everyone we have to rethink that,” De Niro said, “If it’s going OK, I don’t say anything.”

When the Nobu Hotel idea was first discussed, De Niro thought the company would build its own project, not renovate an older Las Vegas hotel tower.  “I thought we would start from scratch, but this now feels right,” De Niro said. “Las Vegas is the right place for this hotel.”

New York architect David Rockwell is designing the Nobu Hotel as a boutique hotel within the nearly 4,000-room Caesars Palace.

Rockwell, whose work in Las Vegas includes Crystals at City Center and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, has described the Nobu rooms as a “distinctly Japanese experience with a Western sense of luxury.” The rooms may be the most expensive at Caesars Palace, starting at around $300 a night. The hotel is expected to open in January, although Caesars is accepting reservations starting Feb. 4.

The main focal point of the room will be the feature wall that displays a custom Japanese calligraphy. Bathrooms will have teak fittings, stone tile and sleek modern fixtures. The oversized walk-in shower is made with traditional black Umi tiles and offers multiple showerheads and a teak bathing stool, a fixture of traditional Japanese bathhouses.

The in-room minibar will have unique selections, including organic Wild Poppy blood orange chili juice, chocolate-dipped Pocky pretzels, Japanese beer and Nobu’s signature brands of chilled sake and Genmai-Cha brown rice green tea. A specialized in-room dining menu includes sushi and a selection of bento boxes for a customary Japanese breakfast. “We’re definitely looking for a customer who likes Japanese food,” De Niro said.

The Nobu Hotel will also include a nearly 13,000-square-foot restaurant and lounge near Caesars’ Appian Way retail area. De Niro said Chef Nobu was creating “unique menu items” for the restaurant. “I’m excited about it. I can’t wait to see more,” De Niro said. Caesars Palace will operate the Nobu Hotel and hire 250 employees assigned exclusively to the tower and lounge.

Following Nobu at Caesars Palace, the company is expected to open its second Nobu Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, next year. Two other Nobu Hotels will follow in London and Bahrain.

De Niro said there were several other location prospects he couldn’t yet name. He said a nearly 200-room hotel was “about the right size” for the Nobu concept. “It could be a little bigger, depending where it is, but I think this is the perfect fit for Las Vegas,” De Niro said.

As for “Last Vegas,” De Niro, 69, stars with Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen. The movie is expected to open next year. He said the movie’s plot involves four older friends on a Las Vegas bachelor party weekend. “It’s kind of like ‘Hangover’ for the middle-aged,” De Niro said. “Our best friend (played by Douglas) is getting married to a much younger girl, and we’re not happy about it.”

from Las Vegas Review Journal

Nobu Hotel, Las Vegas

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