When you have to write about a restaurant with such an important name, the approach is always a bit complicated. Tomoyoshi Endo, whose fame precedes it, is located in Via Vittor Pisani 13. I decided to give the floor to those who have made this story with their own hands, out of respect for their work and with admiration for what they have created. After a brief exchange of messages with Masako san, I have the hoped-for opportunity to give an interview to Kato Shozo inviting me to his restaurant.
The Milanese summer is bubbling in the air. The humidity rate is skyrocketing and I really feel like I’m in Japan. Kato san awaits me at the restaurant, the air conditioning to the maximum. We sit at the sushi bar and he, very kind, starts telling me about his life, the history of the restaurant.
Tomoyoshi restaurant opened in 1970. The owner was Mrs. Endo: I already knew her because I had worked with her sister in Japan. At that time I was working in Asakusa, Tokyo, but in 1980 Mrs Endo called me to Italy through an association of cooks of which I was a part. Here I worked for five years, at the end of the contract I then returned to Japan. But Mrs. Endo, not finding any cooks who could replace me, made me go back to Italy, where I stayed. Besides, I met my wife here, because she worked here too.
Masako san is Mr Kato’s wife. Both later took over the restaurant, opening a new course. In the 1980s, he has a very vivid memory:
In those days, Italian customers didn’t understand sushi. They didn’t understand how you could eat raw fish, they had a sense of repulsion and left it on the plate. We, yesterday as today, proposed an authentic cuisine, very far away and different from the Italian taste. And also very expensive for those years. Our customers were therefore very wealthy, businessmen, people who traveled all over the world and who had an idea of the wider cuisine, who came to the Fair in Milan and considered this restaurant as a reference point.
With the 1990s all this gradually disappears: with the bursting of the speculative bubble before and the transition from the Lira to the Euro after, eating Japanese is no longer a strong reference. The situation seems to be improving with the second decade of the 2000s, but it is pure appearance:
In the 2000s there was a return of Japanese cuisine in Europe but especially in Italy. But unfortunately it’s not real traditional cuisine, it’s the many Chinese “all you can eat” chains, where sushi is not prepared according to the true dictates and the taste is completely different. This difficulty, in preparing sushi according to tradition, I also see it in teaching new cooks the old techniques. In Italy there is just a different and wrong idea of the preparation and flavor of sushi. After all, our customers today have also traveled a lot, they are people who have been to Japan and here they find that authentic flavor.
Kato San introduces me to the chef he is personally training, Tomoaki. He tells me proudly that he feels a great responsibility with respect to the name of the restaurant and that he can not leave it at the mercy of itself: he will train this chef (who already has ten years of experience in Japan) so that he can carry on the restaurant according to the authentic tradition.
The menu is truly vast and impressive. It starts immediately with a selection of special dishes recommended by Masako san, hand-picked in Japanese and Italian. It is worth mentioning: stewed turbot, grilled marinated amberjack fillet, sukiyaki, grilled tuna cheek, tuna sashimi. There are also several sets of sashimi and sushi (recommended, of course, the High Quality set), grilled fish and meat, stewed cooking, tempura, Japanese omelette, different types of nabe, maki and various don. The nigiri à la carte stand out, including tuna belly, raw shrimp, squid, octopus, ikura, sea urchin, scallop and mackerel. A special bento box is also offered on Monday evening.
Four years ago we decided to add wagyu meat to the menu. We prepare it on the plate or in shabu shabu version. However, it is good to make a reservation in advance, on some occasions we also prepare sushi and starters based on wagyu.
As for drinks you can choose between different qualities of sake, green tea (you can also buy matcha on-site) and Japanese beers.