If every single restaurant I’ve been to during my Japan trip has its own story to tell, this Endo Sushi here has got to be the most indelible one. I knew very little about this place, except that it is suggested by my travel companions and located within Osaka Municipal Central Wholesale Center (大阪市中央卸売市場本場). As I relate Sushi Dai freshness owing to its close proximity to Tsukiji Fish Market, I was expecting the same for Endo Sushi.
As we researched deeper, we came across a not so well-known tuna auction within the market. Thinking of killing two birds with one stone, a taxi reservation has been made under the help of Hana Hostel frontdesk. It was 3.15am in the morning; the taxi driver arrived much earlier than our reserved time. He stood next to the doors in his suit, gloves and welcomed us with a smiling face.
He somehow confused between the two fish markets in Osaka and dropped us at the wrong one. Realizing his mistake, he made few circles outside hoping to find us while we wondered inside the building that doesn’t seem big enough to hold a tuna auction. He refunded our previous taxi fares and though the meter was running, he insisted not to receive any money from us upon arrival.
By this time, it was almost 4.15am, the beginning of tuna auction. The taxi driver asked around for a precise location just to show us the direction before leaving. We were guilt-ridden for the midnight free ride at the same time indebted to him for sending us to the right destination when he could have left us there. He himself has shown us the utmost Japanese professionalism that we would never forget.
The moment I stood in front of the tuna auction area, I realized that it was very different compared to Tsukiji Fish Market; no long queue of visitors, no one to guard us, no designated area to stand, and no pathetic time limit. This is the real auction. I sought permission from one of the workers and though granted, we were warned to stay out of the way at all times. If any of them were to be provoked due to our silly actions, the visit would then be over.
From one corner, we watched as a man stood up among the crowd, bellowing the base price in an incantation-like manner. The interested bidders, who had already examined the fish prior to this, would then write down their desired price on a piece of paper, showing only to the same man. He acknowledged the offers one by one while his assistant jot down the highest bidder. The whole process lasted about half an hour time where no less than 30 tuna fishes were up for bid. The auction was fast-paced and fairly exciting; it began at a mere few thousands yen for huge frozen tuna and as they saved the better for later, the price went up exponentially where we gaped at the last base price of 420,000yen.
We walked around the market while patiently waited until 5am, the opening time of Endo Sushi. Being the first customers of that day, we get to choose the best seats at counter bar. Despite its humble appearance housing no more than 20 seats, Endo Sushi has been visited by many celebrities over the 100 years history. Together, their autographs made walls and walls of incredible testimonials.
Here at Endo Sushi, they learnt to keep things simplified; the single-sided A4 menu consists only 4 unique sets of Jyōmaze combination, with 5 pieces of sushi each. No matter which is the choice, Toro, the fatty tuna will always be there.
From left to right: Hamachi (Yellow Tail), Toro (Fatty Tuna), Tai (Seabream Snapper), Uni (Sea Urchin), Anago (Eel)
Priced at only 1,050yen per plate, I stared in disbelief at the generous portion; thick cut of Toro with marvelous streaks, a huge slab of Anago and overflowing Uni. Unlike the other sushi restaurants, they serve no sauce plate to dip our sushi with, but leaving us a brush and two porcelain pots; one for shoyu (soy sauce) and another for pickled ginger. Like an artist, we painted the delectable meat a thin layer of shoyu. Also, no wasabi was served as the chef had already smeared some in the sushi.
From left to right: Sayori (Halfbeak), Toro (Fatty Tuna), Toro (Fatty Tuna), Ikura (Salmon Roe), Sake (Salmon)
The sushi was so fresh and impressive I had to go for another plate. This round, I aimed for Ikura and Sake, substituted Ika (Calamari) upon request with chief’s choice that turned out to be another Toro. Needless to say, each bite was beyond satisfactory.
When the chef asked verbally if we would like to have the miso soup, we nodded. Not knowing that it came loaded with shijimi (little clam), we keep digging in the tiny flesh like there is no end.
At about 7am, we went back to the hostel carrying a bulging stomach and unique experience of witnessing a tuna auction. Till next time Endo Sushi.
Address: 1-1-86 Noda, Fukushima-ku, Osaka City
Contact: +81 (06) 6469-7108
Operating Hours: 5:00am- 2:00pm (closed on Sunday and Public Holiday)