Good sushi arrives in Union Square
After the well-liked Wuchon House closed last year in Union Square, Somerville, locals wondered what would fill the large space. What emerged in June is Ebi Sushi (ebi means shrimp), a friendly, moderately priced sushi restaurant serving fresh fish and good Japanese cooking.
The owners are not your typical sushi restaurateurs. Guatemalan-born Jose and Adolfo Garcia (Jose is Adolfo’s nephew) insist this is authentic Japanese cuisine. Certainly their high quality fish sets Ebi apart from many other spots. Jose spent seven years learning his craft as a sushi chef at Blue Fin Sushi in Porter Square. Business partner Adolfo was in the same kitchen for nearly 12 years. After Blue Fin changed owners, the two took a brave leap in a down economy to open Ebi.
The space is much brighter than its former incarnation, with freshly painted walls and a brand new kitchen. Jose Garcia says they have been working hard to get a liquor license (never an easy task). He knows clientele want sake and Sapporo beer with sushi.
On the expansive menu is a sushi section that contains ubiquitous favorites like spicy-crunchy tuna ($7), which is always fresh. Avocado salad ($7) features all the elements of a California roll - crabstick, tobiko, and the creamy green fruit - in spicy mayo over a garden salad with bits of tofu and a Japanese soy sauce dressing. The creamy-crunchy combination is winning and more satisfying than its California roll cousin.
A 12-piece sushi combo ($20) is a great deal, with your choice of any six nigiri pieces plus one specialty roll. On one visit, the eel has an unpleasant, muddy taste, but salmon, tuna, and yellowtail are happily devoured along with a house roll ($10.50 if ordered separately), a crispy shrimp tempura roll with cucumber and tobiko topped with avocado, spicy mayo, and eel sauce. Sushi and soba lunch sets ($12) are a fantastic bargain (offered midday only). You get a sushi roll, choice of udon or soba noodle soup, gyoza, tempura, salad, and tofu with bonito flakes in a delightful little bento box. Lots of flavorful bites and more than enough food.
For non-sushi fans, the kitchen turns out plenty of good food. Agedashi tofu ($5.50) combines addictive, fried pieces of soft tofu in a rich dashi broth with grated daikon radish. It’s an umami bomb. Or try fried oysters ($8) or pan-fried pork gyoza ($5), which are juicy dumplings.
Tempura is done well here. The mixed appetizer ($7.99) contains tender-crisp broccoli, bell peppers, soft sweet potato, and large shrimp, all fried nicely and offered with a salty-sweet dipping sauce. Shrimp tempura udon ($9) is also a good choice if you like slurpable noodles and savory broth. Spicy chicken curry ($10.99) comes on a sizzling platter with a puzzling garnish of a single gigantic cooked carrot, a small baked potato, and buttered spaghetti. The meat itself is spicy and juicy. Yaki udon with chicken ($9.99) is delicious, with chewy udon noodles, stir-fried veggies, pickled ginger, and moist chicken in a soy-based sauce.
Japanese pancake ($8) is a messy, tasty hodgepodge of cabbage, grated yam, and pickled ginger cooked into a crisp-bottom round, topped with a thick, sweet barbecue sauce, spicy mayo, and bonito flakes. This is serious comfort food, not suitable for light eaters who might be here for sashimi and seaweed salad.
Union Square finally has a sushi restaurant, with a brisk takeout business and a group of happy regulars perched at the sushi bar. When the Garcias get that liquor license, it will turn Ebi into the bustling hangout they’re hoping for.
Catherine Smart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.