First Look: Endo

An intimate omakase in West Campus from NYC sushi royalty

photo by Jessica Attie

As a New Yorker now living in Austin, I felt my breath catch at the sight of two words on the Endo website: “Sushi Nakazawa.”

This iconic omakase in Manhattan’s West Village helmed by Daisuke Nakazawa – who trained under Jiro Ono, the Tokyo sushi master at the center of the smash hit documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi – remains one of NYC’s most coveted restaurant reservations and constantly appears on lists of the absolute best sushi spots in the United States. So when I learned that Endo, a West Campus omakase that hosted its first preview event on March 5, is the work of Endo Yasuhiro, a sushi chef who honed his skills at Sushi Nakazawa, I couldn’t get there fast enough.

Chef Endo Yasuhiro (photo by Jessica Attie)

There’s something a bit transgressive about an elite sushi omakase tucked into a nondescript West Campus shopping strip, and Endo settles comfortably into that “IYKYK” vibe with a lack of exterior signage. Bamboo paneling on the restaurant’s outside walls serves as the subtle clue-in for reserved guests. Once you step through the doors, you’ll enter a clean and minimalist space with industrial touches like exposed brick and visible ceiling pipes, a sleek blond wood sushi counter, and comfortable neutral-toned chairs and love seats in the restaurant’s lounge area.

In true omakase fashion, the 20-course meal will only be served to 10 guests at a time, and all diners will be seated at the sushi counter so that they can watch Yasuhiro create and plate each course. As for the lounge (which is a larger space than I might have expected, given each meal’s very limited seating capacity), those seating areas will be made available to booked guests for pre-dinner cocktails, and Endo plans to eventually admit lounge-only guests for drinks and a la carte eats. The beverage selection at Endo consists of an impressive sake list, Japanese whisky, and rotating cocktails that play with seasonal ingredients and riff off of classic Japanese flavors. For instance, we sampled a gin highball with aromatic peach liqueur that got a burst of vibrancy from fresh ginger.

photo by Jessica Attie

Yasuhiro prioritizes expertly sourced fish and uses ancient techniques to show off the seafood’s natural flavor while also deepening the profile of every bite. King salmon from Scotland was served after undergoing a salt-curing process that boosted every taste note, and a light sear added welcome texture and slight smokiness to counterbalance the salmon’s fat content. In addition to the pristine fish, Endo excels at a task that’s often undervalued at sushi restaurants: the preparation of perfect sushi rice. Just tender enough, just sticky enough, just toothsome enough, Yasuhiro’s rice heightened every mouthful and made me convinced that this restaurant is serving something special.

Due to the tight numbers of each seating, the restaurant’s already-heavy reservation load, and the spendy price point, Endo won’t be a place for relaxed dinners or spur-of-the-moment outings (although the soon-to-come cocktail lounge service could change that a bit!). But if you’re ready to drop some cash on a special-occasion dinner with an excellent pedigree, then Endo will serve you well.

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Endo Yasuhiro, Endo, Sushi Nakazawa

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