Monica Majors gorges on sushi and curry udon at Ebisu for your benefit. Photos by Vinh Dao.
When the opportunity arose to review Ebisu’s newest branch, now open in An Phu Ward, D2, I jumped at the opportunity, and fought off the other journalists with my personal set of chopsticks. There is little in this city that I let stand between me and my favourite style of udon: curry with beef gristle (VND85,000). Aside from the dishes you may already be familiar with, from Ebisu’s original branch on Mac Dinh Chi in District 1, the Japanese dining institution has arrived in D2 with a slightly different menu and a more modern design. Of note is the addition of sushi to the menu, and future plans are to add more family friendly dining experiences.
This duplex-style restaurant certainly has plenty of space for large groups, in true Japanese fashion. When I was smoked out by a group of locals on their umpteenth bottle of beer and chicken heart yakitori (which is absolutely delicious, by the way), I headed to another corner and found solace. I knew to come here hungry, and it was difficult for me not to revert to my signature dish. Luckily, before I had the opportunity to choose I was already presented with my first dish: beef with kimchi maki (VND118,000). Eating beef in my sushi is a new experience for me, and I loved the smokiness that came from the fish flakes on the dish. This was followed by deep fried sardines (VND68,000) and topped off with a raw salmon and salmon roe bowl (VND180,000). There are plenty of vegetarian options too, and I insisted on stuffing myself even further by trying the thick fried tofu with kimchi (VND 68,000).
The recipes all come from Tokyo, and have not been diluted to Vietnamese tastes, but the selections on the menu are certainly geared more toward the palates hanging out in D2 (The original location in D1 is predominantly visited by Japanese). I’m aware that some expats find the food salty, which is somewhat deliberate because it’s all meant to be accompanied by a frosty glass of beer or sake. Trying to blend in, I asked for the most commonly ordered cocktail and was treated to the soda with shochu and peach (VND98,000), a delightfully refreshing drink that went down way too smooth. I was told that iced matcha or oolong tea also works well to cut the salt.
It seems that between the two locations, Ebisu has done an excellent job of keeping true to their rich flavours while offering the right choices for the clientele. Prices are somewhat cheaper in the D2 location and you’ve got nearly all the same items on the menu, plus the option of sushi and sashimi. As one of the newest Japanese joints in D2 (it’s only been open a month) Ebisu is sure to be a hit, especially with their set lunch option (VND98,000-148,000). It’s exactly what An Phu needed, and I’m glad I got in before the rush.