Birthday Nachos and Sashimi Salad
Okay, this is my kind of sports bar. Ebisu on Robson (604-689-8266, 827 Bute Street, website not up at time of posting, but should come soon), occupying the old Hooter's upstairs space at Robson and Bute, is a totally Vancouver joint. First of all, you can find both nachos (complete with ground beef and avocado for only $9 - beat that, any sports bar in town) AND Japanese tapas offerings like sashimi salad. When I was there, a group of what looked to be Japanese students were there for a birthday, and got the PA system Happy Birthday song, as well as candles in one of their nacho plates. Cute, eh?
As always, expectations have a great deal to do with how one receives a restaurant, and I've read some online comments that this place doesn't measure up to the creativity of Guu or Hapa Izakaya which are nearby, or Shiru-Bay in Yaletown. However, from what I can tell, they are going for something different anyway. The place has a huge screen, and smaller screens at the bar, showing the hockey game when I was there. That immediately gives you a more casual atmosphere than any of the other izakayas. They continue the sports bar theme by offering typical sports bar offerings like the nachos, and pitchers of beer at really reasonable prices, so you can come here to drink, watch sports and nibble very casually. Pitchers Sunday to Thursday are only $9.99, going up to $12.99 on weekends. Pitchers of white or red sangria are $12 for the small and $18 for the large. Wings are $4.99 for a half dozen, and can come salt and peppper (like I enjoyed), or with sports bar type sauces like spicy hot, teriyaki or barbecue. I had a sashimi salad ($9.55), while not mind-blowing, was very competent, with fresh sashimi, and a pleasant creamy dressing, mango and tomato concasse, and good mesclun. I also had their oyster motoyaki, which is three Royal Miyagi oysters with cheese, creamy sauce, spinach and mushrooms baked in the half shell for only $5. There are a wide range of fancy rolls in the menu that look good too in the $10 - 13 range.
I'm not really a sports bar person. I'm not that into beer, and tend to only drink it when there's some interesting microbrew or Belgium beer available, or if I'm just being social with a group. I'm not really into watching sports. And I'm a little bit picky about food, and rarely find pubs and sports bars to have a menu or level of food quality that appeals to me. I do, however, enjoy a nice casual atmosphere with cushy seating, a good plate of nachos or wings, and the freedom to drink and nibble rather than have a full meal. Ebisu seems to be the perfect sports bar for non-sports bar people. There is a huge variety of food to choose from, and it appears, from my three choices, to be good quality. There is a wide range of drinks at reasonable prices, including the hot sake I had for $7.95, beer, sangria, wine, shooters, "martinis," as well as premium sakes, champagne, and wine. The music is upbeat and "clubby" but I didn't mind it too much. The booths are big and comfy, and the high ceilings and room to stretch out make it a much different atmosphere from other izakayas in town.
The crowd on a Tuesday were all young, urban Asians gathering socially. No one was really watching the sports on screen. I went mid-week, and the atmosphere was low-key enough for me, and service was fine. Apparently it can get quite busy on weekends. Overall, from my one visit, I think this is a nice place to get drunk.