Michelin-star sushi chef Endo Kazutoshi’s Tokyo secrets

Tokyo  (ES Magazine)
Tokyo (ES Magazine)

There’s no feeling like Tokyo. I was born in Yokohama, but from my house to the centre takes only 15 minutes by train. That’s why people call me Yoko-Tokyo.

I might be a chef but I know a lot of things about style and music. When I was growing up, if I wanted to see real fashion I would go to Tokyo. Harajuku and Koenji Pal street have a lot of vintage shops for thrifting. I can spend the day there and do a bit of shopping and people-watching — Hamarikyu garden is also great for this. Then I eat!

Maybe I’ll go to Sugita for sushi. Shinbashi Shimizu is great as well, but they don’t accept bookings so, failing this, I’ll try Yoshino Sushi Honten in Nihonbashi, which is my favourite inexpensive local joint.

Whenever I speak to any of my guests, they tell me Japan is so expensive. That’s one of the things I always hear. But Tokyo is not. It is easy to survive in Tokyo on a budget. The streets have everything you need. You can get yakitori and a beer for less than £1; the best place is Torisei in Ueno, it’s great for backpackers. You can even eat at Lawson shops; you may be surprised but they have everything. It’s a massive 24-hour convenience store chain and the food is as good as a Michelin-star restaurant. Also McDonald’s. I don’t eat McDonald’s anywhere else but Tokyo — the Japanese muffin is better.

For me, Tokyo food is not just sushi, tempura and soba. One-hundred and fifty years ago, Western people came to Japan and gave us many opportunities for trade and Tokyoites mixed up Western culture with Japanese. That’s why we have ketchup with rice and egg and pasta.

Endo Kazutoshi (Benjamin McMahon)
Endo Kazutoshi (Benjamin McMahon)

I don’t eat McDonald’s anywhere else but Tokyo — the Japanese muffin is better.

For Italian I go to my good friend’s restaurant, Osteria Sughero, in Minato city. It is in a very posh area but his place is very local and laid-back. He has no website and there are only two tables and a few chairs around the counter, but he serves a great eight-course Italian menu straight off the side and everyone is always smiling.

When I want to let loose I go to Tatemichiya in Daikanyama, one of the best punk izakaya bars in Tokyo. It’s an underground place that stays open until 5am playing hardcore punk. I love punk music so here is a lot of fun. Loud music, grilled meat and good quality beer. Many other musicians and fashion lovers go, too. David Boyd went there, even Johnny Rotten!

Streets of Tokyo (ES Magazine)
Streets of Tokyo (ES Magazine)

But for me, Ginza is the best place in the world. My favourite unagi [eel] is in Ginza at Chikuyotei, where I get the unadon. In Ginza, I eat only this. There’s also Flor de Café (Kinohana). It was a favourite of John Lennon, who visited with Yoko Ono. I have to admit, it’s very expensive: one cup of coffee costs about £20! But it is very good. For a drink I go to Lupin, which is an old tavern bar almost a century old. Writers and presidents go there. Classic Ginza.

 (ES Magazine)
(ES Magazine)

This is part of the Japanese mentality: we love tradition, we love legacy. Every year I go back I try a new hotel. Last time I chose the Imperial Hotel because as Tokyo has changed, it has stayed the same for decades, even the same modern European breakfast is served. You know, I go to the same restaurant I did as a child with my grandpa: Ohta Nawanoren in Yokohama, where they know me. Japan is very funny — we have made a lot of innovations but what we really love is tradition. The concept of my restaurant is similar: it’s a mix of tradition and innovation.

Endo Kazutoshi is head chef at Endo at the Rotunda, W12 (endoatrotunda.com)