The founder of Nozomi, Marios George, talks to Time Out about food, lifestyle and rival restaurants
So you’re opening another fancy Japanese restaurant in Dubai. Do we need another knock-off Nobu? Strangely enough, the first thing I was discussing was that it will be difficult not to draw comparisons to Nobu and other Japanese restaurants. We all do contemporary Japanese cuisine, and we all interpret it in a similar fashion. And a lot of chefs that work for me and the other companies have been in and out of the same kitchens. The real difference is that we don’t focus on food so much as the dining and lifestyle experience.
Can you explain exactly what that means? People who dine at Nozomi make a big effort to dress correctly. They want to see like-minded people. Our restaurant has a club feel to it. It’s a night out. It’s not just about arriving for dinner, paying the bill and moving on to somewhere else.
But is it really that different? Okku and Zuma both have a club feel. I’m not too confident to talk about Okku. I visited and wasn’t too impressed. Zuma I have respect for. It’s a major player. It’s curious to see how they’ve converted from being mainly a restaurant at the London location to becoming a half-restaurant, half-bar here in Dubai. I think they’ve taken a small leaf out of Nozomi’s book. After starting out in London, are you changing the concept to fit the Middle East? To be honest, not really, simply because if you refer back to the London business, 90 per cent of our clientele is international anyway, and neatly divided between Europe and the Middle East. What we do here will be a mirror of what we do in London.
So will you, too, have black cod on the menu? Of course. If you envisage any contemporary Japanese menu, we all follow a very similar route. That said, in terms of our signature dishes, you’ll just have to watch this space. I’ve got first-class, world-class chefs who’ve worked for Nobu and Zuma, and I’ve told them to create their own signature dishes. They’re very innovative. I want originality. Let’s not just plagiarise. Nozomi opens on December 4 at the Habtoor Grand Resort and Spa (04 399 4221).