Interview: Samy Sass on his new restaurant, The Niwaki

Almost 30 years after the opening of Monaco’s most iconic night venue Sass Café, Samy Sass has embraced his love of Japan to create a new restaurant, The Niwaki, a place that he says was “written in the stars”.

Located on Avenue Princess Grace, opposite Larvotto beach, on the ground floor of the beautiful new Palais de la Plage, The Niwaki is Monaco’s latest hot spot, where lovers of Japanese cuisine – and those looking to enjoy great ambiance – come together in an exclusive environment.

The restaurant, like the art of niwaki (tree shaping), is guided by serenity, patience, and attention to detail, offering Nippon contemporary Japanese cuisine with Mediterranean influences.

And after multiple travels to the land of the rising sun, Samy Sass believes he has come up with the perfect recreation right here in Monaco.

Monaco Life: You and your father are most well-known for the iconic, celebrity-filled Sass Café. When did that open and why did you decide to go in a different direction with this restaurant?

Samy Sass: Sass Café opened its doors in 1993, so next year will be the 30th anniversary. Sass Café is a family establishment – a restaurant, lounge and party all rolled into one. But me, I am passionate about food. I am a foodie.

It was always my dream to open a concept place, particularly Japanese. I’m a huge fan, I’ve been to Japan many times.

After consulting for SBM for five years, and collaborating with Jimmy’z and La Vigie Restaurant and Lounge, I decided to start my own collaboration with partners Dean Carr and Daryl Foster.

© Fabbio Galatioto

Why this location on Avenue Princess Grace?

I was actually conceived in the building next door, I was born in the nearby Estoril building (on this avenue), and I grew up in my mum’s place here on Avenue Princesse Grace. The cherry on the cake is that The Niwaki is at number 37 Avenue Princesse Grace, and 37 is the year my dad was born. So, there we go, it was written in the stars!

During Covid, I discovered that this building opportunity was coming up. I knew the owner and asked him to keep me posted, which he did. I really liked the space and we signed the agreement two days before Christmas 2020, which was the worst timing, but at some point, you just need to take a risk.

We are next to the new Mareterra district, the new Larvotto Plage, and Testimonio II. We have a great location.

Did signing a real estate deal in the middle of a global pandemic play in your favour?

Yes and no. He was happy with the project and I was happy with the conditions. It took us 15 to 16 months to open. But it was always Japan, it was my dream to open a Japanese restaurant and a very Japanese-styled space.

The design is very serene, minimalist, and calming. Is that the ambiance you were going for?

Yes, I wanted to create something that you don’t find anywhere else in Monaco or the South of France. As you can see, the design is very pure and minimalist, very Japanese. We have the wood, the marble, the onyx, and the stone going through the to upper level.

Looking at the big picture, we may want to expand the brand if all goes well here.

It is indeed understated elegance…

Exactly. If you ask me if we’re a gastronomic restaurant, we are not. If you ask me if we are a regular restaurant, we are not. I’m trying to position myself in between – fine dining, but not over the top.

© Fabbio Galatioto

The menu looks beautiful – from the Osciètre Caviar, truffle calamari, and Wagyu tartare, to lobster tempura, chicken Katsu and salmon sashimi… How do you describe the menu?

Japanese fine dining. I don’t think it’s fusion, but you can find things that at first appearance don’t seem Japanese, but they are. I wouldn’t say our menu is 100% Japanese, but its close. Its Japanese contemporary cuisine.

How much influence have you had on the menu creation?

I rely on the team, but we do work together. I have had these ideas since day one. I gave them the DNA, and we worked with that.  We have Corporate Chef Shahar Dahan and Executive Sushi Chef Wagner Spadacio. The more brains behind this, the better it is.

The sushi chef is actually Brazilian, he grew up in Sao Paolo, where there is the biggest Japanese community outside of Japan.

We also have an Italian pastry chef who is very good. So, it’s a very international team.

Do you have a sushi counter?

Yes, we have a counter for six seats, so this is an experience. You can see the way the chefs work and interact; you can see the production of the restaurant. Most of the people who sit there are not eating off the menu, the chef is taking the lead. It’s like art.

We have part of the menu called the Chef’s Touch. It is the addition of the chef’s daily inspiration so if, for example, you order nigiri sushi, you will not have the same at the table as at the counter. It’s eaten just the way it comes, no need to add soya sauce or anything.

It’s a beautiful room, you really feel like you’re in Japan. It’s a different experience. People really love having the food served up in front of them.

© Fabbio Galatioto

Let talk about the bar/lounge. Can you drink there without having to eat?

Yes. I think the lounge will be discovered more in the winter though. When it gets colder, guests will want to have an apero at the bar while waiting for a table.

But we have a great wine list that matches our menu, and we have great sakis as well.

How did you decide on the name of the restaurant?

The name is important. As I always liked the trees in Japan, I found niwaki, which is the art of pruning a tree into a cloud shape. Then that led to the logo of the tree, which is now our brand.”

You are somewhat of a Monaco icon. Do you feel like you had higher expectations coming into this?

Sass is a family business, and my dad and I are above the business. We are a brand. But The Niwaki is another concept, different from the other places I’m involved in. I’m a partner, and I come and see the customers, but I don’t spend as much time here as I do at Sass. We have a great management team here, great staff.


The Niwaki is open seven days a week for dinner. Reservations are encouraged to avoid disappointment.


Click on the gallery below to see more images of The Niwaki, photos © Fabbio Galatioto… 

Monaco begin with a win 

AS Monaco overcame a late scare at La Meinau on Saturday to beat ‘bogey team’ Strasbourg 2-1 and get their Ligue 1 campaign off to a perfect start. 

Prior to the Ligue 1 opener, Monaco had only won one of their last eight games against Strasbourg. But Philippe Clement’s men sought to defy that troubling statistic from the first whistle, showing plenty of attacking intent and starting on the front foot.

The team itself was high on energy, partially thanks to a raft of changes from last Tuesday’s draw against PSV Eindhoven. Amongst the six changes were Breel Embolo, who was making his first start for the club and Krépin Diatta, who was making his long-awaited return following an ACL injury last November.

To mark the special occasion, it was Senegalese international Diatta, who opened Monaco’s account for the 2022/23 season. He volleyed home from outside the box from a corner to convert what will certainly be one of the goals of the opening Ligue 1 game week. Post-match, Diatta dedicated his goal to “all those who contributed to his return.”

Into the second-half, Monaco continued to push and deservedly scored a second. Gelson Martins’ deflected effort was only parried by the goalkeeper and Sofiane Diop was in the right place at the right time to slot home into the empty net.

In need of two goals just to salvage a draw, Strasbourg pushed, leaving themselves exposed at the back. Monaco could – and should – have got a third to kill the game, but their decision-making and finishing let them down. Jean Lucas almost put the tie to bed, but one-on-one, his shot was deflected onto the post by the goalkeeper.

Strasbourg made the most of the lifeline and dragged themselves back into the tie. Habib Diallo rose above Ruben Aguilar at the back post to head past Alexander Nübel to set up a nervy finish for Clement’s side.

It had looked as though Monaco had squandered their two goal advantage at the death. It was Diallo once again who headed over the on-rushing Nübel to send La Meinau into raptures and saw Julien Stéphan steam down the touchline to join his team in the celebrations. However, following a lengthy VAR check, there was deemed to be an offside in the build-up and the goal was chalked off. It was a let off for Monaco, who held on to secure the three points.

Clement was happy with the three points, especially given the wholesale changes made to the side. “Even with a complete side, it’s hard to win here. It’s a good team with a good coach, but my players were ready and that’s important… many players scored points during today’s match and that’s perfect for the upcoming weeks and months,” said Clement.

Although Clement is aware that he can count on the depth within his squad, Tuesday’s second-leg against PSV will likely herald the returns of Wissam Ben Yedder, Aleksandr Golovin and Kevin Volland. Monaco will go into that tie high on confidence, and refreshed, as they look to proceed to the final knockout round of the Champions League qualifiers.



Photo source: AS Monaco football club




Lufthansa expects a return to profit thanks to wealthy passengers

German airline Lufthansa says that demand for short-haul flights within Europe is expected to push growth “substantially higher” this year, with rich passengers being the main drivers.

After two years of a global health pandemic, chaos has been the buzzword for the travel industry this summer, but it seems one airline, Germany’s Lufthansa, is seeing the forest for the trees, predicting higher-than-expected profits.

“We see a nice ramp-up coming for the third and the fourth quarter,” said the airline’s CEO, Carsten Spohr, adding that the passenger load is expected to be as high as 80% of its pre-pandemic numbers by year’s end, with business travel returning to 70% of pre-pandemic levels, despite the worldwide recession.

The announcement has pushed the company’s shares over 5% higher. Lufthansa isn’t the only airline turning profits this year. Air France-KLM and British Airways owners IAG are also experiencing a return to profit this summer.

Spohr said Lufthansa was seeing more and more wealthy people willing to splash out on hotels, hire cars, expensive restaurants and air travel. After being unable to take trips for so long, the rich are now chomping at the bit to get away from it all. Their privileged positions make them less susceptible to the financial downturn, and signs point to this trend not ending anytime soon.

“People who are travelling business class or even first class on an airline like Lufthansa . . . they tend to be less sensitive to economic up and downturns,” said Spohr.

Lufthansa expects to generate full-year adjusted operating profit of more than €500 million, a sharp rise on last year’s eye-watering €2.3 billion loss. Analysts think this is a low-balled estimate and predict profits will be more like €569 million. Additionally, their cargo division has bounced back brilliantly, with posted earnings of €482 million for the quarter estimated.

Like all airlines, Lufthansa has not been immune to the cancellations, strikes and delays plaguing the industry this summer, but despite this, the picture is bright.  



Photo by Alan Angelats on Unsplash




2022 Princess Grace Award winners announced

The Princess Grace Foundation has revealed this year’s Princess Grace Award winners, highlighting up and comers who have excelled in theatre, dance and film.

Every year, the Princess Grace Foundation honours the stars of tomorrow with the Princess Grace Awards.

So far, the Foundation has supported more than 800 artists in the earliest stages of their careers and have been supportive as their careers have bloomed. Former winners can boast such accolades as Tony Awards, Oscars, and Bessie’s, to name a few. Alumni have also gone on to teach new generations of artists, paving the way for their futures.

This year’s 18 Princess Grace Award winners and six Honoraria winners were selected over a six-month period by the Princess Grace Foundation’s Arts Advisory Board and the Arts Advisory Board together with professionals.

The winners in the theatre category are Siena Zoe Allen, Hector Alvarez, Abigail Onwunali, Kate Russell, Gabriela Saker, and Francisco Mendoza. The Honoraria winners in theatre are Shayok Misha Chowdhury, Dane Figueroa Edidi, and Britnie Narcisse.

Dance and Choreography Award winners are Mira Nadon, Abdiel Figueroa Reyes, Omar Roman de Jesus, Kameron Saunders, Jake Tribus, and Maleek Washington. The Honorarias in this category are Eleni Loving and Ashley Simpson.

For film, the winners are Kelechi Agwuncha, Rio Casteneda, Jahmil Eady, Jeanette Fantone, Katie Matthews and Diana Milena Ojeda Castellanos. The Honoraria recipient is Hazel McKibben.

The top tier winners receive a $10,000 cash grant. Additionally, the Honoraria recipients who each receive a $1,000 cash grant. The 10 winners of this year’s Princess Grace Scholarship were also announced, chosen in conjunction with the Educational Theatre Foundation.

All winners will be celebrated in New York City on 3rd November at the official award’s ceremony.

“I am thrilled to celebrate the 2022 Princess Grace Award winners and honoraria,” said Brisa Carleton, CEO of the Princess Grace Foundation USA. “They are a distinguished group of individuals that represent the next generation of artistry. The Princess Grace Foundation’s mission of identifying extraordinary talent could not be possible without our Arts Advisory Board and selection panelists, and we thank them for their commitment and time. We look forward to celebrating these talented artists with this esteemed group in the presence of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, at our Princess Grace Awards Celebration on 3rd November.”