Chef says De Niro is hands-off partner in Nobu restaurant chain

Celebrity Japanese chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa said Wednesday his fellow investor in the upscale restaurant chain Nobu, American actor Robert De Niro, is a hands-off partner who focuses on acting and doesn't make menu suggestions.

"He likes to eat. He likes to drink. But he never stays in the kitchen," Matsuhisa said of De Niro at a press tasting.

Asked if De Niro makes culinary suggestions, Matsuhisa said De Niro doesn't.

"He's a good partner. He understands my philosophies," the chef said, adding, "He trusts me 100 percent about the food."

Matsuhisa said De Niro focuses mostly on acting but occasionally gets together with him to discuss Nobu's business.

He said he hopes De Niro will attend the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong branch of Nobu in February.

Matsuhisa said the Hong Kong restaurant, his chain's 17th branch, will feature largely the same menu as Nobu restaurants elsewhere in the world but that he may create new grilled abalone and shark's fin dishes, both popular delicacies in Hong Kong, reports AP.

Matsuhisa said he examined the possibility of opening a restaurant in Shanghai four years ago but such plans fell through because of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and a financially troubled partner.

He said he doesn't have any current plans to expand into mainland China.

"Maybe I don't have enough experience for China. That's why I'm concerned with Hong Kong first. Step by step," Matsuhisa said.

Nobu restaurants are also located in New York City, Milan, London and Tokyo.

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