Ebisu is a Japanese fusion franchise that originated in Vancouver but now calls Toronto home too. They serve a mix of seared box sushi, ramen, tapas and other concoctions with French, Italian and Spanish influences that stray from standard Japanese cuisine.
Inside the restaurant is long, but cramped like a lot of places in the area along Queen West, thought this just serves to increase the bustling atmosphere when rushes hit. When there's a lull it's actually pretty calm.
Bar and bench seating along one wall are adequate, but I'd recommend one of the more private high booths at the back, finding the cushions lining the benches a little finicky.
That said, the organization of the restaurant is conducive to the social sharing aspect of Japanese cuisine that I think is highlighted here. A good example of this is the karaage crispy skin chicken ($6.95) a small but filling small plate served with spicy mayo.
Another good shared plate is the seared box sushi or "battera." Seared at the table, it brings in an element of interaction with your server, as well. We go for the saba (mackerel) miso battera sushi ($11.50). This type of sushi is traditional in Osaka, and it's a signature dish here at Ebisu. They press the rice into a rectangular container and put miso paste on top before searing.
Ebisu blends in with other ramen- and sushi-specific restaurants around here, but they actually do both. We try the spicy ramen ($13.95), which starts with pork stock made from scratch and comes with all the fixings, including bamboo shoots and a hard-boiled egg. You only get one option for style of noodles here, but overall this standard ramen is messy, spicy and satisfying.
For a couple items more off the beaten path, we start by grabbing an oyster motoyaki ($9.50). It's an oyster bake in a ceramic dish topped with a cheesy baked sauce, also filled with mushrooms and spinach beneath the crispy layer. The dish has little pockets designed to hold each baked oyster, and you're meant to eat them with the little slices of baguette provided.
Our last dish seems more English than anything: clam chowder pot pie ($8.95). Apparently it's a miso chowder, though, filled with the standard clams, peas, carrot and potato.
Photos by Hector Vasquez