We last went to Japan in 2019. And I don’t think I need to tell you what happened next! Either way, we do really miss the country and the Japanese hospitality.
Thankfully, we can get a piece of it in London: Endo Katuzoshi’s restaurant Endo at the Rotunda in White City blurs the line between reality and illusion.
Is he a chef? Is he a magician? Maybe both at once!
We took the lift to the top of the building, all hushed and stressed from the day of work, the travails of traveling in the tube when no one seems to believe in masks, the neverending sense of panic and anxiety that we’ve been experiencing for the last two years and… it all just dissolved as we sat down and trusted the excellent team at Endo to host us.
We genuinely felt like we were elsewhere—in a skyscraper in Tokyo, essentially.
Endo prides himself in always researching producers, produce and techniques. He builds relationships with his producers; he puts respect for the food, quality and sustainability at the front. If something naturally takes time, say to research, to learn, to make himself trusted to producers, he’ll spend that time. His dedication to his craft is so very inspiring!
One of the fishes we ate had been caught on that very same day in Cornwall (!); and transported with train to London, if I remember correctly. In time for dinner!
And as a consequence, the menu is ever changing, seasonal, and never disappointing. Although there an ingredient that is always present: the tuna, or as he calls it, “Endo’s business card”.
There were multiple rounds of spectacular nigiri, freshly shaped in front of your eyes, and placed in your hand by Endo himself. The rice is cooked and cooled down to perfection, the seasoning is just the right amount and intensity, and the fish is cut in such a way that it both coats your tongue in flavour and melts away while your brain just can’t even begin to process how delicious this little parcel you’re eating is. Simply put, if you want to eat sushi this good, you’ll probably have to visit Japan.
But it doesn’t end here.
As a curious individual, Endo is always coming up with new ideas and thinking of ways to practice what he has learned in the past through his experience working in previous restaurants. So there’s always something new (and usually, unexpected too!). This time we were presented with a stew that, out of a sudden, managed to bring back memories and feelings from the past that I thought I had almost forgotten—those of Christmas in Spain, many years ago. And that was all thanks to his intensely flavourful, Basque style, aged monkfish al pilpil. I am SO grateful for his former Basque Country residence!
There was also their own home made milk bread—which they used for a perfect slice of sandwich. Their own blend of tea, and so on.
The whole room eats the same menu, and there are two sittings per night. Ours was the first, but we were a bit delayed because some guests were late. Still, the team figured out a way to slowly decamp us to the bar area in order to make space for the guests in the second sitting, in a gentle way.
We had the dessert and our last drink there, while dreading having to come downstairs and leave our Japanese fantasy land, albeit clutching our bags containing farewell gifts from Endo…
He walked us to the lift as he listened to us telling him how we had enjoyed our time there, and he also told us about his experiences in Spain, and the places he likes. We bowed to each other multiple times. Huge respect for Endo and the team!
We will be back (bookings and agenda permitting).
Endo at the Rotunda
8th Floor, The Helios,
101 Wood Lane
London, W12 7FR
I leave you with a couple of images I took of the approach to the building, as the architecture is pretty cool.