“It’s an ambitious menu but the inherent culture within Genji and Whole Foods and a brilliant team made it possible,” says Silla Bjerrum, Managing Director of Genji UK. “The original idea for Sushi and Robata was sushi, craft beers, yakitori [barbecued chicken skewers] and other small plates like you might have in a Japanese bar, but when we expanded the concept I knew we needed an A team.”
Silla has over 20 years experience of Japanese food and founded a chain of sushi restaurants using only local, responsibly sourced ingredients so her move to Genji and Whole Foods was the perfect fit. She sees Sushi and Robata as primarily a neighbourhood restaurant where people can drop in for a quick bite or linger for awhile, great for dining alone or with family and friends.
Having received a classical culinary school education, Bulgarian born chef Tsvetan Gerganov had to start over as a kitchen porter when he joined Feng Sushi in 2012. A quick study, his entry was nominated at the 2014 Eat-Japan Sushi Awards. “I was so proud,” he says, “it’s the hardest, most complex cuisine but there are no limits, especially with sushi.”
“I bring traditional Japan to London then make it new,” says chef Masa Tanaka. He did exactly that for 5 years at Koya Frith Street and has developed robata dishes exclusive to Sushi and Robata. “I make robata the traditional way but with ingredients for London like duck and pork belly.”
Radek Maciag has been running the front of house since he was 13 and helped his mother run a night club in Poland. When he discovered Japanese food, he fell in love with the combination of flavour and health. “It’s pure food which gives you pure energy for a happy, longer life.”
The open plan kitchen is a core feature. As Masa points out, in Japan both sushi and robata are traditionally prepared in this manner, “the cold and the hot are balanced” and the interaction with customers is essential for Tsvetan; “they get to see and smell the food before they taste it and I get their feedback straight away.” “From the front of the house, I can see everything; it adds to the excitement,” says Radek.
Beyond sushi and robata, dim sum, salads and pickles, udon and bento boxes as well as a full dessert menu are available. “This fantastic team has allowed us to create a unique menu that normally you would have to go to 2-3 places to get what we offer you at Sushi and Robata,” Silla is proud to say.