Austin ramen restaurant Daiboku is closing in the West Campus neighborhood and will be replaced with a new omakase from an alum of the famed Sushi Nakazawa restaurant. Daiboku’s last day at 609 West 29th Street will be on Wednesday, January 31. The new Endo restaurant will open at the same address sometime this year.
Chef Endo Yasuhiro’s namesake restaurant in Austin is an omakase. He’ll serve multiple-course dishes made with Japanese techniques. This includes dry-aging, salt-curing, and zuking (seasoning for preservation).
Yasuhiro was looking to open his own restaurant when he was connected to Daiboku/Sazan Ramen co-owner Taiki Wakayama in December 2023, who also wanted to help open a Japanese sushi restaurant in the city. Wakayama still owns the address space, and the two are partners in the restaurant.
Yasuhiro’s storied culinary history began in Tokyo where he worked as a truck driver for the famed Tsukiji Fish Market. He moved to America in 1995 because he wanted to become a blues musician playing the electric guitar — his role model was Stevie Ray Vaughan. He landed in Tennessee, where he started working at Chattanooga restaurant Sushi Nabe. That’s where he became enamored with sushi and switched his focus to becoming a chef.
After seven years in Tennessee, Yasuhiro moved to Seattle in 2003 to work at Shiro’s Sushi with chef Shiro Kashiba, known for focusing on edomae-style sushi where the fish is cured or cooked. That’s where he met chef Daisuke Nakazawa of the acclaimed Sushi Nakazawa (the chef had studied under the famous Jiro Ono at his restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, and appears in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi). The two became friendly, and Yasuhiro moved to New York to work at that restaurant.
In 2017, Yasuhiro wanted to continue his sushi education, so he went back home to Japan where he studied and worked at other restaurants. He was at Kiyoyasu-tei in Kanagawa (where he learned kaiseki-style, with multiple courses consisting of highly seasonal ingredients), and Midori Sushi in Shibuya.
Yasuhiro returned to America in 2019, where he started working at Sushi Nakazawa’s Washington, D.C. location. After two years, he got the approval from his mentor to leave and open his own restaurant.
Yasuhiro ultimately connected with Wakayama because Wakayama knew Nakazawa. The two were on the East Coast nonprofit for Japanese restaurants in New York, the NY Japanese Restaurant Association.
Wakayama was into the idea of having a Japanese sushi restaurant in the space. “I have always wanted to bring a Japanese sushi chef to Austin,” he tells Eater via email through a rep. He also thinks that Austin has a ways to go when it comes to Japanese cuisine. “Japanese food in Austin is still about 10 years behind New York,” he says. He sees so much potential in Austin, however, and through his connections in New York, “I am trying to get more chefs and concepts out to Austin as I see a true opportunity.”
Before Austin, Wakayama had overseen several East Coast Japanese restaurants. In Austin, he and Darrel Oribello opened their first Austin restaurant, Sazan Ramen, in 2020, where they focused on tori paitan, ramen made with a creamy chicken broth. They expanded with Dabikou in May 2023 with chef Kris Hammond, where they offer other types of ramen.