The greasy vinyl curtains and humming fridge have been replaced with a neat, dark-wood counter overlooking shining steel surfaces. Traditional Japanese shop banners flutter in the doorway. They have interesting fish, such as rockling and mirror dory. I think the owner has some interesting tales to tell, as the walls are decorated with backstage passes from big 90s rock bands, labelled "Driver", as well as lovingly framed photographs of Japan.
Crab Croquette, $2
The croquette was OK, panko-crispy with a drizzle of Japanese BBQ sauce.
Bento of the day, $12
The bento ("Today's taste of everything good") had juicy, fruity meatballs, a vegetarian takoyaki or octopus ball, decent-enough tonkatsu and panko-crumbed prawn, on rice sprinkled with a delicious seaweed & bonito topping. The standout was the pickled vegetable salad - ultra-crispy chunks of daikon radish, celery, cucumber and carrot, sweet with a vinegar tang. I would have been happy with a big bowl of the seasoned rice and an accompanying plate of pickles. There was also a luscious morsel of meltingly-soft fried eggplant topped with creamy miso. Yum!
Togarashi Calamari, $10
The calamari was lightly cooked with a light yet deceptively spicy coating, and although it suffered a loss of crispiness on the walk home, it was delicious. The chips were, well, just chips.
Footscray and West Footscray are turning on their rusty, industrial hinges, squinting as they turn towards the light of a new dawn. Gentrification is happening, albeit slowly. Every time I see a shopfront in my residential pocket undergoing a refit, I pray for a La Paloma-style café, but it normally becomes another hairdresser. Ebi was empty at 7.30pm on a Saturday night, while the Chip & Fish Shack used to be jumping with people from all strata of society. Ebi's food is delicately detailed and painstakingly authentic, and even though their prices are very low for what they are offering, I fear they are "before their time".
Next time, I hope to sit at the counter and enjoy the food as it should be enjoyed, not steamed for 5 minutes in a paper bag. Let's hope they are still there by the time I get around to it.
See updated review HERE
Update: I had a few pieces of sushi from a friend's lunch pack yesterday and they were really good, with big points for a smear of wasabi between super-fresh fish and rice. A bit cold, but that is the Health Department's fault. My friend said that Ebi apparently has the contract to supply the nearby school with sushi for lunch orders - so maybe they will be around long-term after all. I know I'd love my kids to have sushi from the tuck shop rather than a pie!
Ebi Fine Food
18A Essex St, Footscray (map)
Phone: 9689 3300
Hours: Tues - Thurs 11.30am - 8.00pm (Fri til 9.00pm), Saturday 5.00pm - 9.00pm