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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Etsu Japanese Restaurant :: Baldwin

Always on the hunt for new lunch spots, Baldwin has become the convenient go-to place for quick group outings. Italian, French, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Mexican, vegetarian and Indian food riddle the street so you will inevitably find something that you'll like.

Etsu Japanese Restaurant
Verdict: Go! Fresh sushi, great service, good & quick lunch spot for both casual and serious diners. Love their rolls & presentation.
Meal: Lunch
Price: $15 + tax & tip
Location: 45 Baldwin St

Japanese food is no stranger to Baldwin - I've tried Konnichiwa's tasty udon noodles and curry pork katsu, Fujiyama's quick sushi lunch specials, and the not-so-great AYCE sushi at Kuni-Sushi-Ya. When Etsu first opened I felt a little wary when I saw the inflated, rotating tube out front and the overload of colour umbrellas, but I stepped inside to find a bright and very nicely decorated interior. Every time I've gone, service has been superb and the food great!

Always prompt and polite at Etsu, the servers wear kimonos and are quick to serve you tea (or water if you so prefer). We added a couple people to our table at the last minute, and they promptly added cutlery and patiently waited until the rest of our party trickled in.

The atmosphere is always serene, perfect for those who want a nice lunch or perhaps discuss some serious business. Once settled, we quickly ordered off the lunch menu and our food came in good time.

Sweet little chopstick rests
In the past, I've enjoyed their pork Tonkatsu and dynamite roll set (not pictured). My friend loves their dolsut bibimpbap,  but I haven't tried it. Hana Korea, which is directly below, serves a decent quick bowl of dolsut and knowing that Etsu's fish is fresh and delicious I usually stick with their sushi, sashimi, and nigiri for both lunch and dinner.

Worth noting are the sweet, pretty place settings that they use for their dishes. From crane or flower chopstick rests, floral plates/bowls, polished chopsticks (also patterned with flowers), and quality lacquered bento boxes you have to appreciate their attention to aesthetics. 

The chef really pays attention to the presentation of each dish, from the neatly done rolls, organized bento boxes, and even the salads. Each time, the lettuce, half a cherry tomato and slices of cucumber have been carefully placed in the bowl and a slice of green onion floats right in the centre of the miso soup. Talk about consistency and care.

Lunch Specials (11AM-3PM, M-F)
Running from 11AM-3PM Monday to Friday, most lunch specials run under $10 and come with the standard salad & miso soup.

Compared to the sushi lunch specials at competing Konnichiwa and Fujiyama, I personally think that this is the best deal on Baldwin. As you can see from the following plethora of pictures, I'm quite a loyal customer of Etsu. Their lunch service is also quite quick - they don't serve noodles because it takes too long. A happy trade to ensure that the other diners are served quickly.

Spicy Roll Set ($8.99)
8pcs spicy salmon roll & 6 pcs spicy tuna roll
Pretty much every Japanese restaurant that serves sushi offers spicy salmon rolls. Thus, I find that it is a good baseline for comparison.
Great presentation

Wow. First of all, I was really impressed with the rice-to-filling ratio in these rolls. The panko was very flaky & crispy, the fish plentiful, and overall both rolls were beautifully done. I personally prefer the spicy salmon rolls over the tuna but they were both wonderful. The spicy mayonnaise had the right amount of kick, and their wasabi was not at all weak. Out of all the sushi restaurants that I've tried downtown, this was the best spicy salmon roll to date. At $8.99, I left this lunch quite pleased and full.

Etsu Special Box ($14.99)
10pcs sashimi, 6pcs sushi, 6pcs California roll
Their signature lunch box is filled with fresh nigiri, sashimi, California rolls, & salad. Salmon, yellowtail, tuna, & white tuna were all fresh and nicely cut. The sushi chef always does a prim job! 

Vegetable Roll Box ($7.99)
6pcs vegetable roll, 6pcs avocado roll, 3pcs asparagus roll

I really liked their vegetable rolls. Filled with mushroom, avocado, cucumber, and radish these were much better than the average vegetarian roll. I also enjoyed the asparagus roll - if you like raw asparagus then you will too.

Teriyaki & Maki Box ($8.99)
Chicken, Salmon, or Beef Teriyaki with rice, chapchae, & 6 California rolls
Sweet teriyaki, this was surprisingly good! The salmon was not overcooked and the chapchae (glass noodles, Korean-style) were tasty. I usually avoid all teriyaki boxes like a plague (too many disappointments) but this was a decent box. Normally comes with California rolls but they substituted them for avocado rolls upon request. The rice was sprinkled with black sesame seeds and the salmon sat on a bed of fresh cabbage.

California Roll Box ($8.99)
6pcs California roll, 6pcs salmon roll, & 3pcs avocado roll
A simple lunch of fresh avocado, California, and salmon rolls. I'd say that out of all of the bento box specials, the spicy roll set is the best value.

Etsu Rolls
When I want something other than a lunch special, I often turn to their rolls. They have an extensive list, and each one is done very well. 

Rik's Roll ($8.95) 
Deep fried shrimp, salmon, cucumber, crab meat, tobiko, & spicy sauce

I'll admit that the name of the roll is what attracted me. I mean...we were about to get 'Rik' Roll'd by Etsu! Despite the silliness behind ordering this, it is actually my favourite Etsu roll to date, winning over their spicy salmon, spicy tuna, and dynamite roll. As you can see, the portion is pretty great for $8.95.

Volcano Roll ($12.95)
Spicy tuna, tempura bits, green onion, tobiko, & spicy sauce
Tobiko! It's exploding with yummy fun!
This is certainly a fun roll to order, especially if you're with someone who hasn't tried sushi or a roll before. A plethora of tuna with spicy mayonnaise topping the tasty rolls, it is just erupting with delight. Tobiko flames flickering on top of the mountain, I really enjoyed this roll although I wished there were a bit more panko bits inside. Have fun with the generous mound of tuna. For the amount of fish and neat presentation, $12.95 feels about right.

I always enjoy ending my lunch with a refreshing slice of watermelon, oranges, or a scoop of green tea ice cream. The ice cream comes in a cup with little heart-shaped spoons yet every time I've greedily eaten the entire thing before remembering to take a photo. Can you blame this ice cream addict? :)

While I don't have pictures, I've also tried their pork donkatsu as well as several other rolls. All were great choices for lunch. Both Konnichiwa and Etsu do a decent donkatsu dish, and while they don't rival the delicious pork cutlets I had in Osaka and Nara they do the trick when I am feeling a craving.

Overall, Etsu is a solid choice if you want a nice Japanese lunch in a sleekly decorated environment. Great service, quality food, and wonderful execution. Their dinner menu is also enjoyable, and the waitresses are always incredibly polite and smiling. I've never had a bad experience with their service and the sushi chef always does an impressive job. I personally prefer their sushi, sashimi, and rolls but many of my friends really like their noodles, stone bowl, and pork cutlets.

Lastly, for a really great lunch deal, Click Here.

Etsu Japanese Restaurant 
Verdict: Go! Fresh sushi, great service, good & quick lunch spot for both casual and serious diners. Love their rolls & presentation. Favourite Baldwin lunch spot
Meal: Lunch
Price: $15 + tax & tip
Location: 45 Baldwin St

Etsu Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon


F said...

Putting this on my to-try list! Looks really good!

Me ... said...

Omg now I am craving sushi ... though I am still trying to find a decent place down here ...

Jojo said...

Sweet, as soon as I see Hana Korea I end up going there but now I'll lift my head up and try this place. I'll start with the Rik Roll today, thanks Erin!!!

PS. It's Jason

Jojo said...

Sweet, as soon as I see Hana Korea I end up going there but now I'll lift my head up and try this place. I'll start with the Rik Roll today, thanks Erin!!!

PS. It's Jason

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