Guam Diner Bytes: Ebisu Dinner with Mark Oku
I was quite pleased a few weeks ago to have the chance to dine at one of my favorite restaurants, Sushi Ebisu, with a long time friend Mark Oku. Oku-san has been a fixture on the Guam hospitality scene for decades, and had worked with the Hilton in the very early days.
Ebisu is located on the 2nd floor of the Royal Orchid, in a space occupied previously by Singapura. I am still surprised when I meet someone who thinks Ebisu has closed since they are no longer in their old location on San Vitores Road across from the Bank of Guam. The new location offers panoramic views of Tumon's night lights which can be seen from virtually every table. If you haven't been to the new Ebisu location, you will certainly be impressed by the spacious interior offering both booth and table seating. There is a small counter at the sushi bar so you can watch the chef directly.
There is also a much larger bar counter that lets you watch Japanese TV on a big screen.The menu at Ebisu is extensive, however, for this night time rendezvous with my old friend, we ordered a few appetizers (he selected these). The wonderful thing about his selections is that these are items I hadn't yet tried here during the countless meals I've enjoyed at Ebisu.
First was a Maguro Stick Katsu ($7.95 - Deep Fried Breaded Tuna). Although this sounds pretty normal for an appetizer (and someone who may prefer cooked instead of raw fish), Mark had requested this be cooked medium rare, which piqued my curiosity. When it was served, I was pleasantly surprised at his reasoning. This was a fabulous way to enjoy the best of two worlds. As you can see from the photo where we opened up a stick, the tuna was pink and juicy with cooked edges. There was a little ponzu sauce and tartar sauce, and lemon to squeeze, and yes, the tuna was surprisingly delicious with the crunchy golden-brown panko crust giving way to warm luscious tuna melting on your palate.
Now this semi-rare treat may not be for everyone (especially those who are squeamish about rare fish), but I was impressed by the simplicity and ease with how a relatively cheap appetizer would ascend to a higher value experience.
Two other items Mark ordered were the Tuna Maki ($4.75) Sushi Roll and the California Roll ($7.95), which are two items I've never had at Ebisu either. I am usually eating the other more elaborate rolls (the Rainbow, the Alaska, The Crunchy, The Spider Roll, and a few others). I must confess that both the Maki and the California Roll did not disappoint. You have to understand that Ebisu's owner, Fumiya Nakamura, insists on high quality ingredients and freshness. The California Roll has crab, avocado, and masago, which is a less expensive roe than Tobiko. It was still quite good though I have been cutting down on sushi rolls because of my need to limit my rice consumption.
Another thing you can appreciate at Ebisu is the wasabi, which they make fresh. This makes an appreciable difference in taste.
One course I always enjoy at Ebisu is the Sashimi Mori (Small - 2-3 persons, for $19.95). A sashimi sampler allows you to enjoy a selection of choice sashimi cuts, with each offering unique visual, textural, and taste outcomes. My preferences have matured over time and I can now eat and enjoy that oily fishy taste that mackerel has, dipped in wasabi-laced shoyu of course!
Other seafood fare on the plate included smoked salmon (Ebisu has the best smoked salmon), Maguro tuna, squid rolled around perilla leaf, and yellow tail. All of this is great...and there is no rice...just protein!!
The last thing we had (or I should say I had since Mark was done for the night and wasn't able to eat any of my glorious sashimi) was the Hamachi Kamayaki- Grilled Yellow tail Neck - $15.95. I just call this Hamachi Kama .
If you go into an Izakaya, you can ask the chef "Hamachi Kama - arimaska?", which translated means do you have any Hamachi Kama. This is also an oily bit of fish with a distinct flavor and taste you can learn to appreciate.
This fish neck/collar is grilled under high temperature flame and the outer skin gets scorched and caramelizes. The fish meat is basted in miso. There is a lemon slice and a pile of grated radish. I usually squeeze the lemon over the fish and pour shoyu on the pile and stir it up. Then I break off chunks of steamy white fish and mix with the lemon/shoyu/radish sauce.
It is interesting to see how small a pile of bones remain once you have eaten your way through this.If you've not gone to Sushi Ebisu, you can go there for both lunch and dinner. Check out their lunch specials at Guamdiner.comLunch hours are from 11:30 - 2 p.m. With dinner service from 5:30 p.m - 10 p.m. daily. You can order take-out as well (call 646-3735). Come and support Chef Fumi-san with his small restaurant offering big tastes and flavors.