From the team behind Michelin-starred Endo at the Rotunda, SUMI is the casual yet elegant little sister to Endo Kazutoshi’s eponymous White City restaurant, offering elevated neighbourhood dining, and authentic yet inventive Japanese cuisine, with head chef Yasuda Akinori at the helm. Having previously worked with Endo for a number of years at Zuma, Yasuda’s devotion to craft and quality shines through in SUMI’s refined yet approachable menu, crafted using a host of impeccably sourced ingredients.
We caught up with Akinori to hear about his greatest influence, his love of chips and beer and why salt is such an important ingredient.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, including where you are today, professionally, and what got you here?
My career as a chef started in my family home. My dad had a restaurant and I used to help from a young age with everything from waiting tables to prepping and cooking in the kitchen. After this I went on to study cooking in Osaka and Kyoto where I then began working at a family-run sushi restaurant. I was introduced to Endo Kazutoshi through a friend and began working for him at Zuma in 2011 and have worked with him ever since. I am now head chef at SUMI, a neighbourhood restaurant in Notting Hill, named after Endo’s mother.
What or who inspired you to become a chef?
I would say my father. He was a sushi chef, and we had a restaurant in our house, so I grew up around him cooking and serving people which definitely inspired me to go down a similar path.
Who has been your biggest influence to get you to where you are today?
Again, I would have to say my father. I was lucky to be surrounded by his delicious cooking, and I always admired his work ethic and skill.
What’s your signature dish?
Tuna sushi with a Zuke marinade.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
For me, the neighbourhood is one of the biggest factors when it comes to designing a menu. For SUMI, being based in Notting Hill was integral for myself and Endo san when curating the offering. Understanding the area, local people and the prospective guests dining with us ensures greater success.
Do your personal preferences influence the menu at all?
Preferences always play a role when designing a menu, however it’s important not to let these override the process. For SUMI, Endo and I worked closely to design the SUMI menu, taking into consideration both of our personal preferences and ideas, as well as ensuring our menu caters to a wide range of people with differing tastes by offering plenty of variety.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Kaiseki – traditional Japanese with a modern twist.
What is your favourite ingredient to create with?
It might be unconventional to say but my favourite ingredient is salt. It is such an essential in the kitchen and really elevates pretty much every dish.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
I’d most likely be a sports teacher or go into something to do with sports. I was previously in the national team for sprinting and also have qualifications in sports massage.
What is your favourite dish to cook at home?
NABE (it’s a bit like a Japanese stir-fry). You can cook this with vegetables and meat or even fish. The best part for me is using the leftover sauce and having it as a soup!
When are you happiest?
When I’m spending time with my family.
What is your favourite piece of kitchen equipment?
When you’re not in the kitchen where can you be found?
I like to unwind by watching films, or videos on YouTube. If not, I love to go to the seaside or the pub! I grew up at the seaside, and I love the fresh air and the calming atmosphere of being by the sea. I always like to go back there to relax.
What’s your favourite takeaway or comfort food?
Chips and beer! But also steamed rice, nori and soy sauce – simple but delicious.
Where is your favourite place to dine?
My absolute favourite is Okina Soba in Tokyo.
What do your future plans entail?
I hope to keep on honing my craft, and developing my skills – there’s always more to learn. Further in the future, I would like to retire when my kids are grown up and help out in the industry where I can. I’m not sure I’ll be a full-time chef forever but I’d love to help with things like fishing or back of house activity.
How have the lockdown restrictions affected your work?
We opened SUMI in November 2020, right in the midst of a lockdown, which of course hadn’t been part of our original plan! We were determined to open though, and we made the decision to offer home delivery, as so many other restaurants did, and we were surprised at how great the demand was. The restaurant wasn’t designed to operate for delivery so it was challenging to navigate this logistically, but we found a way to make it work and it was a huge success.
Address: 157 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2RS
Phone: 020 4524 0880