Endo at The Rotunda

8th Floor, The Helios, 101 Wood Lane, London, W12 7FR, United Kingdom

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Chef interview

Endo Katsutoshi os head chef of Endo at The Rotunda.

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Endo at The Rotunda is at the top of the Helios Building in White City, with a panoramic view over the Westfield shopping Centre. It is not quite the view that you might get in The Ginza in Tokyo, but in other ways this is one of the closest experiences to Tokyo sushi that you can find in London. Diners sit at an L shaped counter, and there is a separate bar where you can have a drink before dinner and where dessert is served. You access the restaurant via a lift to the eighth floor, and since everyone eats together it is important that you are punctual. We arrived quite early on this occasion and sat in the Helios lobby area for a bit, an area frequented by a local tabby cat called Trevor. Trevor likes to pop in and survey the lounge before being gently ejected by the reception staff.  He usually waits a respectful few moments outside before repeating the process, seemingly indefinitely.

The menu is omakase and is quite lengthy by the standards of most sushi restaurants. There is a short wine list that I have written about previously, and a longer sake list. Chef Endo makes an effort to use top-quality ingredients, with for example N25 caviar and fish caught mostly in Cornwall from a few selected fishermen that Endo works with.

An appetiser of cold udon noodles from Nagasaki rested in seaweed oil and was topped with Sardinian bottarga. This was a pleasant way to begin the meal. Next was Cornish tuna in a seaweed roll with a little caviar. The nori roll was ultra-thin and delicate and the blend of flavours from the tuna and caviar was lovely. 

Mackerel from Cornwall was killed using the ikejime method to preserve flavour, and had been caught yesterday off the Lizard Peninsula. This was seasoned with salt and freshly grated wasabi, which were precisely judged. The mackerel had unusually good flavour. The rice, from Endo’s own farm in Japan, was served at body temperature, as it should be. Far too many London sushi places serve fridge-cold rice and fake wasabi from a tube, but there is none of that nonsense here: this is proper sushi from a really experienced chef. The grains of rice in the “shari” base of each sushi bite are distinct, lightly vinegared and hold together nicely, an ideal platform for the various toppings (“neta”).

This was followed by cold chawanmushi (savoury custard) of both pieces of lobster and Orkney scallop. The shellfish themselves were excellent, while the custard itself was a little less set than some versions I have eaten elsewhere. Next was a poached Irish oyster with soy sauce, Japanese lime and a touch of miso with a hint of chilli, a nice touch that just brought out the flavour of the oyster. This was followed by Italian red prawn sushi with roasted caviar and extra virgin Jordanian olive oil. The prawns were fine though I think there are even better ones to be found around the shores of the Mediterranean. 

The sushi sequence was broken up by a cold soup of sesame tofu from Akita in Japan, served with okra, yuba (milk skin), mountain yam and watershield (an aquatic herb) with a garnish of grated aged yuzu. The tofu was silky in texture and the okra provided some contrasting texture. The sushi resumed with Orkney scallop and oscietra caviar with a touch of wasabi and salt. The scallop had lovely natural sweetness and was just lifted by the gentle hint of wasabi and the brininess of the caviar.  

A sort of comfort dish followed next, seared fatty tuna with egg yolk, English autumn truffle and baby enoki mushrooms. This was pretty and tasted lovely, the earthy mushrooms contrasting with the richness of the tuna and egg. Japanese snapper sushi followed, the fish imported from Kumamoto in Kyushu.  The skin was left on for extra umami, topped with truffle salt and shio kombu  (kelp with salt). Seasoning was spot on and the fish had very good flavour. Chutoro Cornish tuna sushi was next, the semi-fatty tuna having lovely rich flavour. This was followed by mackerel tempura with daikon radish, miso sauce and grated daikon. The tempura was quite delicate and the crisp batter was a good pairing with the naturally oily fish inside.

This was followed by Cornish sea bass from a large 3.5 kg fish that had just slightly seared skin. Sea bass is a lovely fish and this was an excellent specimen. Sushi of Cornish spider crab was next, a mix of both white and brown meat with truffle sauce and a touch of yuzu zest. The crab tasted very fresh and there was a nice touch of freshness from the yuzu. Smoked sea trout sushi was next, served with a little cube of jelly with vinegar and yuzu served alongside. The trout had very good flavour, sea trout being a n altogether more noble creature than the river trout that seems almost omnipresent on London menus at present. At this stage there was a little parcel of vegetable tofu and mountain yam with kombu stock and sesame, the stock being particularly delicate. 

The final sushi bite was otoro (fatty tuna) seared over Japanese binchotan charcoal from Wakayama. The rich tuna had just a touch of lime juice and freshly grated wasabi from Shizuoka prefecture in Japan, where some of the best wasabi comes from. This was a lovely way to end the sequence, with just enough bite of wasabi to offset the natural richness of the tuna. 

There was a solitary meat dish, lightly seared Miyazaki A4 wagyu from Kyushu with peppercorn sauce, miso, girolles as well as cabbage and fried aubergine and a sauce of onion and soy with a separate chive sauce. This particular meat is from purebred Kuroge Washu cattle and is regarded as one of the very finest wagyu in Japan. In 2022 it won two of the top eight prizes at the National Competitive Exhibition of Wagyu competition in Japan. It also won the Prime Minister's award for the finest quality beef fat for the fourth time in a row.

After all that richness, dessert was a lighter affair. A base of koji rice (cooked rice that has been inoculated with Aspergillus oryzae) came with roast fig, wild strawberry parfait and raspberry compote, the acidity of the fruit working well with the rice and ending the meal nicely. A final bite with Japanese tea was a canale flavoured with Japanese whisky.

Service was charming throughout, with plentiful staff and impeccable drinks topping up.  The omakase menu is priced at £250, and with some extra drinks and 15% service the total came to £312 per person. Of course, this is hardly a cheap night out, but the ingredients are impeccable, the skills on display undeniable and the staff are charming. Endo is a little corner of Tokyo in the unlikely setting of White City.

Further reviews: 13th May 2023 | 22nd Mar 2023 | 26th Nov 2022 | 11th Jun 2021 | 20th Nov 2019 | 24th Jul 2019

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