We still go the park a couple of times a week, only now instead of sunhats by the door, there are coats. The hated woolly beanies are assigned at the door only to spontaneously "fall off" within a few metres of home. As we walk to the park and back, we always pass by Ebi. My first visit a couple of months ago failed to blow me away, but the comments on that post are building slowly to fever pitch, extolling this little Japanese café's virtues. The release of their new "Winter Menu" was the excuse to revisit I needed.
Early on this cold night, warm light diffused out of the shopfront, its windows steamed up invitingly.
I had called ahead, but they were slammed, and customers continued to walk in and order. The owner was a picture of calm, though. Every burner on their stove was covered by a bubbling pot, and I enjoyed watching them make their vegetarian takoyaki (octopus balls) in a traditional mold, somewhat like a patty pan over the burner.
Prawn gyoza, three for $5
These gyoza were great - handmade with a chunky, almost creamy prawn filling. The delicate, soft dumpling skin on the sides contrasts with their crispy bottoms. They came with a light soy and vinegar dipping sauce.
Large fresh fish of the day with chips, $12
This was the most fabulous fish and chips! No less than four pieces of spanking fresh mirror dory in great clouds of sensationally crispy batter. The chips were fantastic too. I contend that they have changed their chip supplier - previously they had those very long, thick, flavourless chips that pubs are very fond of. These were stubbier, golden, and much crispier. My only complaint was that everything was a touch oily; I think it could have been drained just half a minute longer. May I say, though, what excellent value - four pieces of fish and all those lovely chips for 12 bucks!
A new addition to the winter menu is ramen noodle soup with either soy or miso broth. We chose miso, but unfortunately we were disappointed. While the toppings were good - pork, a perfectly poached egg, traditional Japanese fish cake, tasty green vegetable, and fat shiitake mushroom - the broth and noodles were unremarkable. Iron Tokage, with whom I had dinner, contended that they were in fact udon noodles, not ramen at all. I think this really needs to be eaten at the counter and not as takeaway, or at the very least, have the soup served separately and poured on over the noodles at home.
Pork belly bento, $14
But... oh, god! The pork belly! SWOON! This gets my vote for dish of the year thus far. The most unctuous, marvellous, tender, slow-cooked pork belly. The first bite was a "put down the chopsticks and sigh" moment. The rich meat is infused with ginger and sweet soy. Alongside was sweet and tender braised daikon with a pleasant earthy flavour, as well as hard-boiled eggs. The accompanying salad had wonderful vinegared vegetables including a slice of lotus root and a sort of spear of bamboo. In another compartment in the bento a little piece of eggplant nestled, anointed with creamy, salty miso sauce. Fantastic!
Ebi has definitely found its stride. I applaud its gumption in opening in this out-of-the-way location, and I now believe its confidence is well founded. The food is so cheap for such a high standard and such attention to detail. I do love a good old school fish & chipper, but Ebi's fish and chips have won me over too. Ebi, banzai! Your food is fabulous. Long may your flags flutter in the breath of fresh air you have brought to our pocket of Footscray.
Ebi Fine Food
18A Essex St, Footscray (map)
Phone: (03) 9689 3300