Friday, June 4, 2010

Ebi Fine Food 2 - Winter Menu

I love winter.  With muted sounds, the day materialises slowly out of the grey morning mist.  From my study window, I watch the lemon tree come slowly into focus, like a photo blooming onto paper under the darkroom light.  "Winter" - the word itself is stark yet beautiful in its austerity, like bare-boned trees.

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!

Ramen, $12.50

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
Hours: Tues - Thurs 12.00 - 8.00, Fri 12.00 - 9.00, Saturday 5.00 - 9.00 (call as they sometimes shut a little earlier) 

Ebi Fine Food on Urbanspoon


  1. The food there looks good... but fish and chips!? I'm not one to judge on bizarre menu offerings - we had chips on offer at my family's Chinese restaurant when I was a kid - but that was certainly unexpected! Still, as long as they do it well!

    I'll be down that way to check out the 'ramen' once I'm a true Westie. We'll sort the ramen from the udon, if you get my drift.


    PS. Can I just say how much I enjoy your poetic post openings? Keep it up!

  2. Hi Billy - thank you for the compliment! (((hugs)))

    The shop used to be the local fish & chip shop, so I guess they thought they would hedge their bets and do both Japanese and fish & chips. At first I was skeptical but now I can honestly say they do both very well.

    Look forward to ramen hunting when you are ensconced in your new pad. How exciting!

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  4. Hi Nejla (beautiful name BTW) - do try them, they are great. I stopped in today and they are getting ready to put in a coffee machine. They had these crazy homemade doughnuts, filled with custard of either black sesame, ginger, red bean, or green tea! Weekend breakfasts are also on the cards, apparently.

  5. We were desperate for a good coffee on Saturday and were planning to go to Jelly Bean where we always get a good coffee. Anyway we had a fantastic coffee at Footscray market at the coffee and nut stall just around the corner from the Deli that was forced to close- only $3 each.
    Cheers Melissa

  6. Hi melissa - cool! I have walked past that place and wondered if it was any good, will be sure to check it out soon. I had a coffee from Cavallero's (sp?) in Hopkins St recently - abominable!

  7. So, made this joint for lunch yesterday. What a cool place! Large fish and chip & coke: Fish of the day (monkfish), two pieces a little on the mushy and tasteless side but OK; chips that were perfection. Put it another way: I don't believe chips can get any better than that! Served with real cutlery/crockery and a rilly good salad of Japanese bits and pieces and lemon mayo. About $14 all up. I'm a convert, but will likely try some of the Japanese stuff next time.

    Warning: I got there right on the dot of noon, and was told the place was booked solid from 12.30pm. At that time, six punters fronted ready to chow down. A famous western suburbs muso strolled in, and was told they could maybe fix him up at around 2pm. So it seems this place has become so hot that bookings are for sure the go. Also, I figure it is surely destined for bigger premises elsewhere at some stage.

    Cavallero: Isn't interesting that a place so dedicated to biscotti for so long should be so particularly clueless when it comes to coffee?

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  9. Kenny, I sense a recurring "real cutlery" theme - are you sure your blog shouldn't be called "Consider the Forks"? ;)

    Ebi are absolutely going great guns and good on them!

    Nejla, so glad! I had lunch there not long ago, just the takoyaki and a miso soup. Perfect.

  10. Oh, very droll! Nah, but I do appreciate the real thing when it is provided, especially at the price bracket I mostly inhabit. Don't you?

    Although I'd consider "Get The (Plastic) Fork Outta Here" ...

  11. Ha ha I love it! Really, I agree. Plastic forks and plates eat-in just turn my stomach from an environmental viewpoint. Ditto takeaway cups for drink-in coffee a la Starbucks or Gloria Jeans.

  12. I just went there twice in the last month..had to go the 2nd time to try the seafood bento..and I was lucky to be one of the last few customers before they closed for the holidays. The owner (I think his name is John) said they will reopen in mid-Jan, and I was lucky I went that day because their prices are going to increase soon..but best of all.. NEW menu coming...can't wait!!

  13. Have been to Ebi for coffee the last two weekends - haven't tried the breakfasts yet but brekki is up from 9:30- and a new autumn menu. Breakfast bentos in japanese style or western style, rice porridge, donuts, and finally nice close coffee.
    Week 1 coffee (we drank there) was great, week 2 coffee (take away) was bad :/ have to hope week 2 was an anomaly. And try breakfast soon!

  14. Its a quality operation Ebi, it reminds me a little of the smaller cafes at Nagoya Railway Station, just less brown decor.

  15. SD can't wait to try the brekkies and close COFFEE!!! Was it different people who made the two cups? I had a coffee at Gusto recently, very nice. Milk could have been more creamy but the taste was excellent. They use Coffee Supreme which has got to be my fave blend.

    Anon, cool! It is great and I like the staff's patter as you collect your order. A real neighbourhood joint.

  16. I finally got around to trying this place tonight. It was a nice night so the place was packed and buzzing. I liked it though, it reminded me of the little crowded bars/resturants in Japan.

    You're right, the pork belly was divine, it just melted in your mouth, skin and all. The Viets have a similar dish, only more salty, the pork slightly darker (but nowhere as tender as this!).

    I also had the lotus chips, crab and vege croquettes, prawn tempura and the Osaka vege style balls. YUM!


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