Endo at The Rotunda is on the eighth floor of the Helios building at White City, formerly the BBC building. The space is generous for a sushi bar, especially if you are used to Tokyo, where sushi counters are often tiny. Here there is a large wooden counter in an L shape, seating fifteen customers. There is a separate bar area to the side, and an outside terrace in good weather. Everyone is served at the same time, so punctuality is important. Endo At The Rotunda was awarded a Michelin star in the 2020 guide. There was a set omakase menu at £180, which was the only option offered. We saw the chef cutting into an impressive slab of tuna, this particular one a 226kg specimen caught off the coast of Spain. Two different tuna appeared during the meal, one aged for three days and one for eight days.
The meal began with white miso soup prepared with the very last of the matsutake mushrooms of the season. This was excellent miso, rich and comforting, the depth of flavour comparing well with many that I have tried in Japan. The first fish on offer was the “Business Card” dish, a mixed tuna roll that is placed into your hand. The nori roll is made from two different seaweeds that are prepared with an eight-year old Japanese vinegar and then toasted, and the overall effect was very light and delicate. The tuna itself was a mix of cheek, chutoro and otoro, seasoned with wasabi. This was delicious, or “oisihi” as they say in Tokyo.
The sushi sequence then began. Rice is from a top quality supplier in Japan, the same as used at uber sushi restaurant Saito in Tokyo. Even the water used to cook the rice is imported from Japan. Naturally the rice is at the correct body temperature, rather than the fridge cold abominations I have been served all too often in London. Temperature is not left to chance here. The chef could be seen using an infra-red thermometer to check the temperature of various items during the meal. Oyster from Bannou Cove in Ireland was marinated and very lightly cooked, meeting with the approval of my well-travelled dining companion, who spends months every year in Japan. Seared tuna was an alternative for those not fond of oysters.
This was followed by an unusual dish, Cornish lamb seasoned with freshly grated wasabi root, the meat having excellent flavour. Even in Japan, squid can retain some chewiness, but not here with the next offering, tender Cornish squid topped with a touch of sudachi (a Japanese citrus) and a little white truffle. Next was a vegetable dish, a Japanese spring onion variety grown in East Sussex by a Japanese farmer, here prepared with dashi stock, made from dashi with roasted bonito and tuna flakes. This was followed by a tempura course. Monkfish was aged for five days and was served with wild pied a mouton mushroom, both deep fried and served with a bowl of dipping sauce. The tempura was light and the monkfish in particular was excellent, carefully cooked and very tender, which is not something that can often be said of monkfish.
Diver-caught Orkney scallop was topped with a little Exmoor caviar, the scallop having very good natural sweetness. This was followed by a little garden salad involving radish and two different beetroots. The sushi resumed with red bream, a popular fish for sushi which can sometimes be rather chewy. Not here though, the fish being tender and with mild flavour. At this point there was grilled centurion clam that had been gently smoked with juniper, again being surprisingly tender. I enjoyed seared otoro that had been aged for eight days, an indulgently rich bite.
This was followed by langoustine topped with a little caviar, this being supplied by N25 and being noticeably better than the Exmoor caviar encountered earlier. Next was otoro tuna with girolle mushroom and an egg yolk sauce made using eggs from a farm in Gloucestershire. The combination of the egg with the tuna worked really well. This was followed by yellowtail from Cornwall smoked for just 40 seconds, which was pleasant if less impressive than the earlier dishes. Cornish mackerel caught yesterday was the next sushi course, also lightly smoked. The natural oiliness of the mackerel worked nicely with the hint of smoky flavour. Next were a selection of mushrooms. There were ceps from Somerset, matsutake mushrooms and enoki mushrooms from Denmark, notionally with sansho pepper, though this was so subtle as to be virtually undetectable.
The eight-day aged lean akami tuna followed, seasoned with just a touch of yuzu, allowing the gorgeous rich flavour of the fish to come through. There was then A4 grade Miyazaki beef from Kyushu, which is a well-regarded area for beef in Japan, along with celeriac and carrots from Surrey as a contrast to the rich beef. The final savoury course was river eel or unagi, served as a roll, and perhaps a touch mushy though having good flavour. Instead of tomago to finish there was a little souffle made with using brown sugar and rice, which was unusual but enjoyable.
Service was impeccable and the bill came to £293 each including wine. The menu at £180 is not exactly cheap but as can be seen involves a large number of dishes using very high-quality ingredients. It is much cheaper than The Araki in London (whose eponymous chef recently returned to Japan and so is now under new ownership) and yet the standard of the food here is at least as high in my view. My experienced dining companion thought that Endo at The Rotunda would compare well with many sushi restaurants in Tokyo, which is high praise and something that can almost never be said of Japanese food in London. Endo is a skilled sushi chef and a friendly host, chatting away to his customers. The overall experience is thoroughly enjoyable if you can afford it.