Review: Etsu Japanese restaurant, The Strand, Liverpool

Posted on 30 September 2011
By Angela Johnson
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Nowhere in the city deserves the label ‘hidden gem’ more so than the precious jewel that is Etsu Japanese Restaurant, off Brunswick Street.

Etsu translates as ‘delight’ or ‘joy’, a feeling you will without doubt experience from the moment you enter Etsu via its pretty garden terrace on The Strand.

For many Westerners unfamiliar with the ‘delight’ sushi poses, the mere suggestion of consuming Japanese food conjures up facial expressions akin to disgust when imagining a menu comprising solely of raw fish. I confess, until recent years, I too held such an ignorant belief.

Prior to visiting Etsu, having sampled what appeared relatively ‘daring’ dishes at establishments such as ‘Yo Sushi’, I considered myself to possess an average knowledge of what comprises “good” or “bad” Japanese food. Only after tasting the truly authentic Japanese fare at Etsu, the realisation dawned. How inexcusable an insult it is to utter the name of such chain restaurants in the same sentence as this fine establishment.

Proud owner David Abe discussed with much enthusiasm the genesis of his bold venture in Liverpool. Together with his Japanese father and keen investor, David quit a successful career as an auditor to embark on his quest to bring genuine Japanese cuisine to the people of Liverpool.

David’s two sushi Chefs, each boasting over 20 years experience in honing their craft, which, having learned of Head Chef Tatsuya Ueda’s past, requires passion and unswerving dedication. Ueda spent the first three years as an apprentice in Osaka simply washing rice and learning precisely which knives should be used to fillet many different species of fish.

Ueda’s experience and pride in his work means he insists on using the finest fresh ingredients, sourcing only top quality fish, refusing to cook with anything that does not meet his standards. And, my goodness, does it show.

My friend and I visited on a busy Sunday evening, with all but three tables spoken for in the clean, inviting dining area which houses up to 55 customers.

David explained that while Japanese meals are not usually structured as Starters, Mains and Puddings, he had purposefully tailored the menu to this familiar split for the benefit of English visitors.

To start, we ordered a personal favourite in MISO SOUP – fermented soybean paste, with wakame, tofu & spring onion – (£1.95) and SUIMONO – clear soup with king prawn, wakame & vegetables. (£2.45) Effortlessly tasty whilst without question the healthiest item I’ve ever ordered from a restaurant menu.

We followed our soup with a tantalising selection of MIXED TEMPURA (7) – deep-fried king prawn & vegetables in light crisp batter with dipping sauce. (£5.95), YAKI TORI (3) – Chicken skewers in teriyaki style sauce served with 7 spice pepper (£4.95), and NIKU GYOZA (5) – hand made delicious pork & vegetable dumplings, pan fried and steamed served with dipping sauce. (£5.95)

It is impossible to stress exactly how fresh and succulent every piece on Etsu’s menu is, with a particular highlight being the California Rolls (4 pieces in each portion) – Toasted nori sandwiched by seasoned rice, rolled and coated in white sesame seeds and dressed with mayonnaise and avocado – we chose EBI KAPPA filling of King prawn and cucumber (£4.45). The sesame seeds were a superb addition to the rice, juicy prawns matched well with the cucumber, cleansing the palate as it glides down the throat.

But the pièce de résistance came in our choice of TEMAKI (1 piece per portion) – Hand rolled sushi in a cone shape filled with seasoned rice and choice of filling – we opted for a filling of the finest SAKE – salmon, avocado and mayo (£3.85) and a TEKKA SALAD – tuna, mixed salad and spicy mayo (£3.95). Simply exquisite and a must-try!

Next came David’s personal recommendation – NIGIRI SUSHI (2 pieces in each portion) – Slices of fresh seafood served on fingers of seasoned rice with a touch of wasabi (Japanese horseradish). David insisted we eat the dish before he informed us what it was – having gulped down the melt-in-the-mouth white fish – we were given the huge but far from unpleasant surprise that we had tried ‘UNAGI’, or, in English, Eel (£3.45).

Although reluctant to stray away from the delicious sushi menu, we wanted to satisfy our curiosity for a main course. Having sampled so much of the treasures on the sushi list, we chose to share a main of TORI – Tender chicken served with your choice of sauce and served with white steamed sticky rice, salad and Japanese dressing. (£12.95) We chose Teriyaki sauce – suitable for both fish & meat dishes. The dish was a sublime mix of sweet and savoury, and disappeared within minutes! Regretting failing to order two mains, we turned our attention to the Puddings. Japanese restaurants are not famed for their desserts, but David’s addition of the English tradition is more than welcome, each, of course, with a Japanese twist.

Choosing the Baileys chocolate cheesecake with black sesame seed ice cream, a choice made entirely to satisfy my inquisitive nature. The grey colour is a little off-putting but I’d urge you to try it, a smoky taste oozes from the sesame seeds but the overall flavour remains a sweet treat. My friend opted for the Chocolate pot with a rather less daring, but nonetheless tasty, vanilla ice cream. David added a blob of Green Tea ice cream for our interest – a real teaser for the tastebuds – a fiendishly healthy flavour and yet so creamy!

Attentive, friendly service combined with the freshest most pleasing food sampled in Liverpool, Etsu is a real joy to behold!

10/10 – Try it!

25 The Strand
Liverpool, Merseyside L2 0XJ
0151 236 7530

Tel: 0151 236-7530.

Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 12.00-14.30 & 17.00-21.00 last orders
Wednesday: 17.00-21.00 last orders
Thursday: 12.00-14.30 & 17.00-21.00 last orders
Friday: 12.00-14.30 & 17.00-22.00 last orders
Saturday: 17.00-22.00 last orders
Sunday: 16.00-21.00 last orders