Ebisu huddles quietly behind a tree, at the concrete foot of an imposing 2nd Street tower, giving no impression that a stylized fishing village exists inside.
The decor is decidedly nautical, with bristles of black bamboo, faux crabs crawling the netting-draped walls, sea-foam vinyl seats, and brightly lettered banners with fish on them. A long table with a mizzenmast commands the middle area. There will often be a group of older men telling stories and drinking more sake than you can easily believe.
The headband-clad waitstaff briskly awaits your order, but it's going to take you a moment to peruse the menu, sipping cold glasses of dry Onikoroshi to take the heat from the day. I usually get an iced green tea as well, although I suspect it's fresh from the ICC can rather than brewed on the premises.
A favorite if it's available will be the Shrimp with Chili Sauce, surrounded by crispy rice chips and topped by wisps of scallion. The chili sauce rules the dish, surly and given to furious epiphanies which cause urgent sips of sake.
The Grilled Rice Balls, browned by metal and shoyu, are not as sublime as Terried Sake House's used to be, but are solid and worthy. Ebisu does not bother with anything in the middle of them except for the essence of the rice itself; the texture is such so that it seems almost grilled rice with a tender rice filling.
The Pork Belly Cutlet is hearty, a crackle of skin separating from tender white meat; it cools itself on a half-circle of aluminum mesh. The dipping sauce has notes of wood and electricity.
For us, sushi is not usually the goal, but either the Bluefin tuna or the Amber Jack sushi will be exalted, soaring on subtle clouds, worthy of comment. The maki rolls tend to be soft and yielding, but the Fatty Tuna and Scallion Roll has impact, the nearly too-strong, impetuous green onion calmed by the o-toro.
On the trendier side, the Dragon Roll snakes around its plate, the avocado inside cushioning the snap of cucumber; umber ripples of eel are laid atop.
For a fuller experience with eel, which Ebisu does well, get a Freshwater Eel Box, a seemingly bottomless meal in itself over rice.
Ebisu is owned by Bishamon Group, which includes Daikokuya among its children.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), East Side/Downtown, Japanese )
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