Ebi Fine Food is a Japanese restaurant tucked away in a suburban street in Footscray near the West Footscray side. It’s not a main shopping strip and you may easily miss it except for the Japanese lanterns fluttering enticingly, framing the doorway.
Inside you’ll find a tiny Japanese fish and chippery. Yes that’s right! You’ll find good ol’ fashioned fish and chips on the menu but you can choose from traditional battered fish to tempura crumb. Or go Japanese entirely (with an odd segue into Korean bibimbap).
During my lunch they did a steady takeaway trade. Just as well as the dining area is teeny – just a row of stools along the high dark wood counter (similar to those found in traditional sushi restaurants), two squashed tables inside and some outside seating.
To start I tried Ebi’s version of takoyaki – without the tako ($9 for 4). They call it a ‘vegetarian ball’ and it was the dish that launched Ebi many years ago when it was just a mobile food cart at festivals selling the vego balls.
The vege-yaki/vegetarian balls were lightly rolled balls of deep fried dough doused in soy, mirin and kewpie mayo. I think some flying bonito flakes are needed for extra appeal but they’re an addictive little starter.
For lunch there are a series of bento, nabe and rice dishes. I tried the bento with fish three ways ($18) which changes daily. On that day, the box contained eel cutlet kabayaki (a sort of sweet soy), panko crumbed salmon with red capsicum infused Japanse mayo and red miso barramundi. All of the fish was cooked fresh – as soon as it hits the pan or fryer it’s onto your plate.
The bento box contained pickles, a green salad, Japanese potato salad made with sweet potatoes and some cold vegetable dishes including a squishy eggplant topped with creamy miso, a cube of marinated fried tofu and a woody stalk of bamboo shoot. The steamed rice was actually a highlight, as it came garnished with some umami seaweed and bonito sprinkles.
Desserts continue the Japanese fusion theme and I decided on the tofu cheesecake, inspired by a recipe by Japanese Iron Chef Morimoto ($9). This was a highly whipped airy concoction of sponge base, tofu with a hint of cheese and citrus and garnished with sugared lemon peel. The soup spoon contained a maple and coffee syrup but I preferred the cake without its delicate flavours masked by the syrup.
For a suburb that’s surprisingly lacking in Japanese restaurants (given the proximity to numerous fishmongers in Footscray) Ebi Fine Food is a casual Japanese restaurant which serves Japanese food with care as well as reputedly producing some of the best fish and chips in the area. It certainly seemed to be a favourite with locals, who all knew the owner/chef and staff by the name.
Ebi Fine Food, 18A Essex St, Footscray (03) 9689 3300