Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ichiban Japanese Restaurant

Ichiban Japanese Restaurant: 4641 Washtenaw Ave. Ann Arbor

That is Alison and me standing outside the new Ichiban Japanese Restaurant. It is located in the strip mall across from Spicetree Apartments along with Bistro Bar and Grill, Dynasty Buffet, the Comcast Office, the Bingo Hall and the drive-thru Starbucks which used to be a Blockbuster (do you know where I mean, yet?). I wore a skirt that day and Alison is wearing shorts because it was actually sunny and warm. Remember it being sunny and warm? I digress.

Ichiban is not a chain. Despite several accounts to the contrary, I have been assured that it is solely owned and operated by Sky Chen. The restaurant opened on Valentine's Day of '08 and means "number one." By the way, it is pronounced "itchybon" (a really fun word to say over and over again). No, there is not a fellow Ichiban in Florida or any where else for that matter. Hence, the "number one."
My Meal: Fried Oysters, Ichiban Combo Platter, Hibachi Steak (teriyaki style) w/ Clear Soup, House Salad, Vegetables and Steamed Rice, Green Tea and Diet Pepsi (notice the recurrence of the diet Pepsi throug
hout my reviews, I love me some diet Pepsi)

My Cost: $38.80

Atmosphere: It is an amazing space. Driving up to the restaurant (which used to be a terrible deli (I did eat there once)/DTE energy payment center), I was a little hesitant to believe that this could at all resemble a Japanese Steak House atmosphere (though, I've only been to one besides). When I walked in, it was as if I had been transported into another place, possibly Japan (though I've never been and can't be sure). A separate room houses Hibachi tables with family-style dining; the typical chef at the table, fire leaping, and laughter erupting style. The separate dining area encloses an expansive bar/sushi station, individual booths and "tartar" tables with private dining behind a cloth curtain. We opted for the private tables in the larger dining room. The decor is elegant and sophisticated with beautiful Japanese prints, amazing wood-work and soft, subtle lighting. The Japanese music is quiet and non-intrusive, adding to the ambiance. The carpeting was beautiful as well! I never look at carpeting! Overall, the dining experience is heightened by the slow, graceful feel of the space. Bonus points for the awesome HD big screen T.V!

Service: Fine, overall. Our server (didn't catch her name) was polite, informative and patient with my annoying questions. The food was prompt and she came back often to check on us without being a nuisance.

Taste: Here's another: "oh, dear." First off, I admit the huge mistake of getting the fried oysters as an appetizer. In my defense, the server did recommend them as a popular item. My first bite resulted in a slightly chipped tooth due to the stone/shell left on the oyster. They were greasy, flavorless and just a bit too squishy. Never get fried oysters at a Japanese restaurant. Unfo
rtunately, I learned this from Christy afterwards (thanks for the laughing at me, too, man). You will recall that I have very limited experience in the Japanese food realm and will be learning a lot through this process. Second, the spring rolls were greasy and just not very flavorful. The shrimp was okay, I mean it is fried shrimp! How can you go wrong. The chicken katsu was overcooked, but had some nice flavor. I'm glad for the fruit sauce; a blend of mango and seasoning in gelatinous form. The apps tasted a lot better with the fruit sauce.

The standout of the whole meal was the incredible dressing on the house salad. I've had this soy-orange-ginger dressing in several different Asian settings and though I've always been a fan of its flavor, been less satisfied with its texture and consistency. (you know, the gritty chalky type thing). An
yway, this dressing was so good I wanted to drink it straight. With a hint of garlic and a good blend of acidity, savory and sweet, this dressing was extremely creamy with no grit or chunks of ginger. The greens were actually, well, green - not just a bunch of iceberg dumped in a bowl with a couple of matchstick carrots for color. The salad was the bomb! I mean the real bomb. Thank goodness, because my teriyaki hibachi steak was terrible. Loads of grisle, chewy and tough, it was like eating part of my shoe with a hint of soy and pineapple, without having a knife to cut it. The teriyaki sauce was definitely runny and annoyingly combined with the water left on the bottom of my plate from not properly draining the steamed vegetables. To give some credit, the vegetables were fresh, steamed perfectly and well-portioned. I just wish that I wouldn't have had watery teriyaki sauce poured all over them. The plate also contained the biggest carrot I've ever seen at a restaurant. I will give a bonus point for that. I also have to compliment them on the clear soup, a nice simple flavor profile with not a lot of fishy taste (I've tasted fishy clear soups, yes indeed). The tea was also excellent and so was the diet Pepsi.

Value: Well, hmm. Okay, so it definitely was not as good as what I spent for it. If I'd have spent half of the money, I would have been a little happier. If I'd spent a quarter of the money, I'd have been golden. Alas, I did not, so I cannot be happy or golden. I do give a point in value for being able to eat in such a beautiful atmosphere.

Atmosphere 1 2 3 4 5
Service 1 2 3 4 5
Taste 1 2 3 4 5
Value 1 2 3 4 5


So it doesn't seem as bad as I made it out to be after doing the rating system. I would remind you that the 5 in Atmosphere really bumped this baby up. Look at value. See? Look at Taste. See? Not a fan, overall, though I can see why people would return. I admit that I did not try any sushi and I have heard that they have great sushi and that the fish dishes are to die for (metaphorically, of course).


So, it will definitely take someone dragging me at gunpoint, begging or me being hungry with no possibility of any other food source (including my own arm) to get me back there. I would have actually given it half an elephant if I knew how. Not for me. Sorry Ichiban.


Y-Maeda said...

Hello nice to meet you.
KO-N-NI-CHI-WA (^_^)v
I am Japanese.
I saw your wonderful site.
Please link to this site !

jess said...

Thank you for your comment. It is great to meet you as well. I'll check out the blog.

Jennifer said...

I am so glad I saw this review! This was one of the places I planned on trying out after my pregnancy. I think I will pass on it now.

Solty said...

I myself have eaten at this same restaurant on multiple occasions and have been greatly impressed with the flavors of the food every time, but I have only tried the soups, salad, and sushi. You were correct about the decor - it is beautiful. A note for future reference (from what I have heard): if you want hibachi, sit on the hibachi side instead of ordering it from the kitchen because it is a lot better this way.

Anonymous said...

You are right about the steak, if you go again get the filet minon, it is EXCELLENT!