Last Bite: Pedro and Fernando De León
99 Sushi's co-owners talk about authenticity and what they're working on next
How were you introduced to Japanese cuisine?
We studied college in New York, and our flatmate was Japanese, he was the one who introduced us to this marvellous world. We commenced going to the best restaurants of New York, later on to the best Japanese restaurants of the World and we ended up establishing GEB (Grupo Empresarial Bambu) as soon as we came back to Madrid years after. Nowadays we count with five restaurants in Madrid and one in Barcelona.
Why did you choose Abu Dhabi for your first venue outside of Spain?
Our local investor insisted on his hometown, we visited it and we felt that Al Maryah Island was the perfect destination to commence our international endeavour in UAE. There isn’t a better location in the city. The fact that we are beside Nusret, La Petite Maison and Coya makes this project even more exciting and challenging.
How will you ensure the authenticity of the dishes?
Our staff is very well trained, Jaime Castaneda, general manager of 99 Sushi bar ltd, visited us five times this year to learn the know-how-to of 99 sushi bar. In addition to his, we sent three of our best chefs on permanent basis to Abu Dhabi to ensure consistency throughout our menu. We were based in Abu Dhabi during the first weeks of October to guarantee this. We know that the expectations are very high and our reputation is vital for us.
What are some of your favourite items on the menu?
Tiger prawns tempura is our top-seller but we have many favourites: the carabinero, the red prawn nigiri and the sea urchin gunkan are some of our favourites.
How would you describe the look and feel of the space and who did you work with to achieve it? We wanted to create something different from what our clientele is used to perceive when they arrive to our venues. Therefore, we focus on gold as predominant colour without forgetting 99’s red and black.
We have managed to differentiate very well the bar, main dining area and the terrace and this is what makes it different from the rest. It is the first time we created a bar and we are very excited of how it is going to work. Jaime was responsible for selecting the material and Decovision was our fit-out contractor.
Name the main differences between opening a restaurant in Spain and opening one in the UAE?
In Spain we open in three months and in Abu Dhabi is going to take us 10 months (sorry, I had to say it). A challenging but a very enriching experience.
What are you working on next?
Internationally, we have several projects in the region, I cannot talk more as it brings bad luck. In Spain, we are bringing a new concept to Madrid, something unseen before. A 99 twist to surprise our demanding clientele once again.