Ebisu on Broadway
601 W. Broadway #12
I know what you’re thinking, not another sushi restaurant review! The frequency of Foodosophy posts relating to sushi is for good reason. In the Lower Mainland, sushi restaurants are as ubiquitous as Starbucks. To mix things up a bit, I thought I’d take a different approach and compare take-out and dine-in experiences from the same establishment. The guinea pig for this little culinary experiment was Ebisu on Broadway. I’m still confused about the name of this restaurant since the street signage clearly says Ebisu, the menu says Kamei Royale and the “coming soon” website refers to Kamakura. Maybe customer confusion is how you distinguish yourself in the Vancouver sushi scene. This restaurant clearly has a case of confused identity and I was hoping this wouldn’t translate into the food.
From a takeout perspective, sushi is a fantastic item for a quick grab and go, but is equally enjoyable during a sit down meal. To start this commentary, I’m going to walk you through my first take-out experience at Ebisu on Broadway. I was having a late evening craving for some sushi so I decided to follow the neon “open” sign clearly visible from the corner of W.8th Ave and Ash. After navigating a steep and narrow stepped staircase, I arrived at the sparsely populated restaurant. This visit was mid week and close to closing time so I wasn’t expecting to see a large crowd of people. The takeout menu caters to large groups and the combination platters would easily feed a small family. Since I was looking more for a snack, I decided to order a-la-carte. Keeping it simple I went with a small sashimi salad and an assortment of nigiri which included a couple of pieces of saba (Spanish mackerel), toro (tuna belly) and a piece each of hamachi (yellow tail) and uni (sea urchin roe). I placed my order and sat down in the small seating area next to the entrance. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the assortment of Japanese language newspapers and magazines. In my view, this is always a good sign when eating at a Japanese restaurant. After a few minutes of attempting to read a Japanese newspaper, my order was packaged and ready to go.
Sushi was correctly proportioned and could be eaten in a single mouthful. The fish was fresh and the rice had the right amount of bite to it. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to sushi where quality will always trump quantity.
After devouring my sushi, I tucked into the sashimi salad. Visually, the salad presented well, even in a Styrofoam container. Taste wise, it failed. I’m not a fan of mayonnaise based dressings and the some of salad was wilted. I personally prefer vinegar based dressings so had I known, I would’ve probably never ordered it, but the wilted salad is hard to forgive. Overall, I’d definitely go back for the sushi and stay away from the sashimi salad.
Dining in was a different experience. We were seated in a private room with ample lighting and seating for four. It felt isolated from the rest of the restaurant and would be perfect if you were looking for a private date. Similar to the takeout menu, the dine-in menu caters to group dining with large sushi and sashimi platters. There was an assortment of cooked dishes and I was tempted to go the combination dinner which gives you the option of choosing several dishes for a fixed price. In the end, we decided on a sushi/sashimi platter, the shrimp gyoza and the tuna tataki salad. From my previous takeout experience, I was hesitant about the salad but agreed since the menu described as having a vinaigrette dressing. I was impressed with how quick the large sushi/sashimi platter arrived as it was beautifully presented on a wooden boat. The sushi and sashimi was fresh and the maki’s were well prepared. They put great effort in their presentation and it definitely shows.
The salad was the next to arrive and true to form, presentation was well done. Flavor wise, the salad again missed the mark. The tuna was seasoned with a Cajun spice blend which completely masked the tuna’s delicate flavor and to top it off, the salad had a balsamic dressing. The combination of raw tuna, Cajun spices and balsamic dressing just didn’t work. So strike two on the salad front and I don’t know if I’m willing to try a third time, even if it’s supposed to be a charm.
The shrimp gyoza were the final item to arrive and again presentation was impressive. Three gyoza were neatly arranged on a bed of green onions and deep fried wontons with a side of a basic soy sauce and vinegar mixture. One of my favorite things about gyoza are the crispy bottoms of the steamed dumplings. Unfortunately, in order to achieve this crispiness, the shrimp were complete overcooked and rubbery in texture. Although pleasing to look at, it didn’t taste very good. I also felt somewhat wasteful, since you leave behind the deep fried wontons and the bed of green onions. I don’t feel bad for leaving behind a sprig of parsley, but a quarter cup of green onions seems a bit wasteful. Overall, service was excellent and the food arrived in a timely manner. Even though we were tucked into a private hut, our orders were taken quickly and our tea was refilled frequently. So two thumbs up for the service staff.
So comparing the takeout and dine-in experiences, one thing is clear. I’ll be back for the sushi and sashimi and the service was excellent during my take-out and dine-in experiences. So next time I’ve got a craving for sushi, I’ll definitely head in Ebisu’s/Kamei Royale/Kamakura’s direction. Hopefully they’ll finalize their name one day.