Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Alphabet Dining Letter E : Eiji

Eiji - Castro

Sushi ceviche, Cinnamon Mochi,  Oboro Tofu condiments, Chirashi

     Continuing our ABC Dining tradition, my friends and I headed to Eiji Sushi in the Castro for our letter "E." As their banner proudly displays outside, Eiji specializes in two things - sushi, and tofu. It is a very tiny, almost hole-in-the wall sushi joint. I hesitate to label it as hole-in-the-wall because when you enter, it is very clean and quaint. It is simply on the small side. This, coupled with their popularity means that yes, you definitely need a reservation if you're planning to dine here on the weekends. Luckily, we made one and got to enjoy Eiji for the first time!

Appetizers 

Oboro Tofu condiments - shredded bonito, green onion, daikon, sesame seeds, seaweed, ginger

     As I mentioned, Eiji specializes in two things - sushi and tofu. To start, we split two tofu appetizers. The first was Oboro Tofu, a soft tofu which came with the colorful palette of condiments you see above. "Oboro" in Japanese means hazy or misty, so it's fitting that the meal needed some condiments to give our taste buds something sharp to focus on. Clockwise from the green onions we have : spicy daikon, toasted sesame seeds, seaweed, shredded bonito (katsuobushi), and some very pungent ginger in the middle! We were also given some gluten-free soy sauce to splash in with our tofu. 

The darling bowl our Oboro Tofu came in

Cute turtle shell ladle

     We were told to ladle out a scoop per person, try two to three condiments at a time, and get another scoop to try different condiment combinations. It became a fun puzzle game to find your favorite oboro toppings. My personal preference turned out to be the ginger and the toasted sesame seeds. Against the plain soft tofu, the ginger gave a great kick of flavor. The sesame seeds contributed their interesting texture.

Oboro Tofu

     I didn't get a great shot of the oboro, as it isn't very photogenic, but I wanted to at least give you an idea of the texture and color of it. So there it is! It came out lukewarm for those of you curious about the temperature. Because the next tofu we got was PIPING hot!

Ankake Tofu
  
     Our second appetizer was Ankake Tofu, which came out steaming and was too hot to eat for a minute after we got it. Ankake is actually based off of the oboro tofu, only instead of served plain & with condiments, it is steamed, then topped with a soy-dashi sauce. This was good but the condiment tray just makes the Oboro Tofu plate more fun.

Main Courses

From top - Salmon Skin Roll, Dragon Roll, Ceviche Roll

From top - Salmon Skin Roll, Dragon Roll, Ceviche Roll

          Becca and I split the top two rolls, the Salmon Skin Roll and the classic Dragon Roll. Chanda got the Ceviche Roll, which I think we were all jealous of when it arrived because the tomatoes make it look so pretty!
     The Dragon Roll is usually my go-to sushi, because I am the world's BIGGEST unagi (eel) fan, followed only by my love for the second dragon ingredient - avocado. Eiji's Dragon Roll did not disappoint. They were generous with their portions of both avocado and unagi. 
     I wanted to try something new as well, so we went with the Salmon Skin Roll. I figured you can't go wrong with salmon. I wouldn't say I didn't like it, but it just didn't have the flavor I prefer in sushi. Perhaps it wasn't fair to compare it with the delicious Dragon Roll, but the only thing I took from the Salmon Skin Roll was the crunch of the carrots in it. I couldn't taste the salmon and as I ate each piece I thought about the next unagi-filled piece I would scoop up soon after.


     Above you can see a close-up of the carrots the Salmon Skin Roll.

Chirashi - Rice topped with various sashimi, egg, and roe

     Alex N. and Rayna each got a Chirashi bowl, which was rice topped with various sashimi (raw fish), roe (fish eggs), and egg, with some lemon and wasabi for good measure. Depending on how hungry you are, you may want to order a rice bowl like this, since it seemed to fill them up more than those of us who got sushi.

Dessert

Kyoto-Style Cinnamon Mochi Ice Cream (Green Tea & Vanilla), with Red Bean Paste design

     My favorite was the dessert, for obvious reasons. I split the above Kyoto-style cinnamon mochi ice cream. This was one of the most delicious things I've ever had! The mochi on the left is filled with green tea ice cream, and on the right we have vanilla. The whole plate is designed with generous amounts of red bean paste. The mochi is very soft and chewy, with enough cinnamon to be flavorful but not overpowering. The cold green tea and vanilla ice cream in the middle was a delicious bonus! I wish I did not split this. I wish I bought ten of my own! 
     Note: Eiji's knows how good their desserts are, and will not let you buy ten of your own. There is a one-per-customer rule. I think this is a genius ploy to get people to come back if nothing more than to get another dessert. And the one you see above isn't even the one they're best known for!
     By the time we ordered dessert, about 8:45-9pm on a Sunday, they were already sold out of their special mochi strawberry. Let me rephrase. I'm afraid you think I mean strawberry-flavored mochi, and I do not. I mean they literally wrap a large, fresh, ACTUAL delicious strawberry with mochi, and you cut it down the middle into slices and eat it that way. I will keep going back earlier and earlier until I get one of these magical strawberries!

Mochi close-up, with vanilla ice cream inside
     
Yam Cake and Vanilla Ice Cream     

     Chanda and Alex N. split the Yam Cake and vanilla ice cream dessert. It was noticeably smaller than the Kyoto Mochi but it was pretty good. I thought the Yam Cake resembled red bean paste, both in taste and texture. Kind of like a mix between jello and pudding. 
     Overall, I would recommend Eiji, but not for the sushi specifically. Their sushi is good, but nothing special. What sets Eiji apart from other sushi joints, including the large neon one across the street, is it's attention to Tofu and Dessert plates. They are truly unique and a different, exciting dining experience! We picked a great letter "E"!


As always,
Thanks for reading & Happy eating!

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