Sushi is probably Japan’s most well-known cuisine and in the country you are spoilt for choice, with such a huge variety of price, quality and venue. For the freshest fish it makes sense to eat sushi straight off the boat, and Japan’s incredible wholesale markets are ideal for this. For many, Tokyo’s Tsukiji market is top of the list and, in search of a Kansai equivalent I visited Endo Sushi at Osaka’s market with high hopes. It was good, but didn’t blow my mind. I love me some raw fish and am on a bit of a sushi and sashimi pilgrimage. So far, I’ve scraped the raw flesh out of a crab’s leg in Hokkaido, caught my own fish in an amusing place in downtown Osaka, got up at 3:30am to visit Tsukiji (even then we didn’t get into the tuna auction!), returned to Tsukiji at a more reasonable hour for breakfast, ventured overseas to compare Korean sushi to the original (let’s just say classic is best)…with this experience I am pretty confident in claiming to have found a better option: Fusazushi at Kobe City Central Wholesale Market.
I went to this hidden gem on the recommendation of a foodie teacher. This is the same woman who took me to a shed of a restaurant filled to the rafters with precariously stacked cardboard boxes – you would not want to be there during even the tiniest of earthquakes – and taught me to get the most out of sake by accompanying it with tiny purple squid – weird but pretty wonderful. She seriously knows her stuff. And so, with handwritten directions and high expectations I dragged four fellow sushi fiends to Fusazushi.
It was a typical rainy season Sunday and thanks to the ten minute walk from Fukae station (Hanshin) our feet were soaked from puddles when we arrived at the deserted market at 10:30am, long after any auctions or produce sales had wrapped up. A boarded-up market is quite an eerie place when each raindrop echoes along the cardboard box-strewn alleys. It feels desolate; the exact opposite to a bustling market and like the beginning of a good apocalypse film. Nevertheless we soldiered on – investigative journalism is not for the faint of heart.
With not a soul in sight to ask for directions it took a few wrong turns before we finally arrived at our destination. Tucked away from the main market, Fusazushi was literally the light at the end of the tunnel, its sign glowing in welcome and the menu outside causing our tummies to grumble in anticipation.
Inside is cosy and welcoming with about ten seats at the counter and one table for two – romantic date anyone? We had no wait (perhaps thanks to the World Cup matches at the time) but I have been warned that, though they officially open 9am till 2pm, they close when they run out of stock.
Sushi breakfast/brunch is something everyone in Japan should experience. Being in the market means Fusazushi has the freshest stock and they deliver fantastic platters to hungry diners. The fish is so fresh it might as well still be wriggling – don’t worry squeamish diners, it’s not!
Particularly impressive was the size of each nigiri. Even though it is my favourite, I was almost intimidated by my scallop! The portions are so generous that they helpfully slice each in two to make it easier to eat. This is ideal for trying a little of everything and then choosing your favourite to finish on – salmon, scallop and squid were our top contenders. The staff is very accommodating and if you don’t like something on the platter they will switch it for an alternative.
Recommended mixed platters range from ¥1050 to ¥2800, and are all served with green tea and a salty but delicious clam miso soup. You can also order individual plates of your favourites and, by the looks of the people sat next to us, these are equally as generous – I would liken the ikura (salmon roe) nigiri to an exploding volcano, never have I seen so many fish eggs piled onto a mouthful of rice!
By the time my tasting party had finished sighing in ecstasy and lamenting the lack of such sushi in our respective countries, our feet had dried and the sun come out: a sushi miracle. Fusazushi is my number one sushi experience thus far, and completely worth the wet and eerie journey there.
This is an extended version of the review originally posted on JapanTravel.com 23rd June 2014.