I first told you about kaiten-zushi, or conveyor belt sushi, which is Japan’s answer to fast food, back in 2011, when Melinda and I hit up Sakana-Ya in Syracuse to gorge ourselves on colorful rolls. Ebishura Sushi, in Vestal’s University Plaza, forges its menu both from the kaiten-zushi tradition and Korean cuisine. That means that in addition to the huge conveyor belt that dominates the spare, but nice dining room, you can get bibim bap, kimchi pancakes, or bulgoki on the menu, which like most Asian restaurants, has amusing translated-to-English-by-a-computer typos like dissert and appitizer.Melinda and I went on a weeknight during the summer, when Binghamton University is fairly disserted, so it wasn’t crowded, but with smaller portions of sushi rolls than you get at say, Kampai, and lower prices, I bet this joint will be jumping now that classes are back in session. We began our meal with a kani (spicy crabmeat) salad, which had great heat, but wasn’t made with real crab. Instead, we got that crab stick stuff you find on salad bars. It was fairly yummy, and a good way rev up our palates, but Kampai’s crab and avocado version is much tastier and made with real crab meat. Then again, I believe Kampai’s crab salad is $8, and at $4.95, this version will appeal more to Ebishura’s target market – poor college students.
The beef “dumpings” (insert immature giggle here) we tried came with a dynamite spicy chile oil sauce for dipping, but were themselves nearly devoid of flavor. I would skip these fried won tons on a return visit.
|I don’t get the cherry garnish|
The trick with the conveyor belt is that you don’t really know what you’re getting, and then you kind of have to dissect what’s speeding past you to see if you might like it. We started with the Binghamton roll, I believe – cream cheese, shrimp and avocado, deep fried. I was hoping for so much more with this one, but it just tasted gluey and bland. Even a pretty lengthy bath in wasabi-corrupted soy didn’t remedy the mediocrity.
Next up, we ordered a little sashimi to cleanse our palates, and were rewarded with fabulously silky hamachi (yellowtail), which was sliced oddly thick, but was deliciously fresh and firm. After a trip through my soy and wasabi wash, it melted in my mouth and made me say, “mmm.”
Not so with the uni (sea urchin), the orange blobs you see on the plate above. I was pumped to try uni for the first time, as Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern are always yammering on about it on their shows. And you know, I’m a pretty adventurous eater. I down bone marrow, duck hearts, and liver without batting an eyelash. Not so with this delicacy, which I can only liken to ocean garbage. The taste and texture were so foreign to even my sushi-loving palate, it’s hard for me to describe it with any more sophisticated verbiage. It had a faint spoiled taste, and was inedible. The waitress felt terrible that I didn’t like it, and returned it to the chef, who transformed it into hand rolls, with nori and rice, but I still couldn’t choke it down. I might try it again in a more upscale setting, with a high end sushi master in whose hands I felt safer, but otherwise, never again.
I needed a mouth-pleaser after that doozy, and found it in the BU Girl – spicy salmon roll topped with tuna, salmon, spicy tuna and tobiko with spicy wasabi mayo. She was resplendent with sweet raw fish, spicy tuna, crunchy bits and pops of clean-tasting roe. I loved all the textural treats in this one.
I also loved the American Dream, which I didn’t get a photo of, but was fiery and crunchy. I enjoy my rolls spicy and texturally interesting, so this hit my notes with flying colors. It has shrimp tempura, avocado to lend it creaminess, and both spicy tuna and tempura flakes, which are basically deep fried bits of breading. Yum.
While I clearly didn’t love everything about our meal at Ebishura, I did appreciate the low prices, convenience of the conveyor belt, and pleasant interior. This is not masterful, artisan sushi, and I think the fish itself is not as high quality as you’d get at a very nice sushi bar. But it’s quick, it’s cheap, and it works well in a college setting. If we can open the aperture of culinary possibilities to young people, I’m all in. We gave Ebishura a six on the BHS scale – just above average, mostly for the creativity of some of the rolls. I would like to go back and try some more of the menu items, and may just do so. Do you want to come? My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!