Well, we celebrated Chris’s birthday on what I shall term the Great Ichiban Adventure.
Ichiban, as I said in the previous blog, is Japanese for “Number One.” The restaurant itself, as predicted, is a multicultural mix of Chinese and Japanese food, along with various American dishes.
First, the service was speedy, and I approve of that; we were seated almost immediately upon walking in, and after receiving our drinks, the servers came frequently to top them off. No problem here.
Second, the most impressive aspect of Ichiban is the atmosphere. Many Asian restaurants take care to create the “Asian image,” and Ichiban is no exception; they even had a waterfall with a fish tank, and a glamorous chandelier hanging, along with various lights that frequently changed colors. The music sounded like contemporary American radio stations, which is not a problem, but I have been to restaurants that played more soothing and traditional Asian music.
Various decorations with the symbol for “Fortune” or “Happiness” (福) hung in various corners throughout Ichiban, but they were all the same; I don’t know if I liked the uniformity for found it slightly distracting.
Now, for the most important part: the food!
What can I say? One thing I’ve learned about restaurants focusing on Chinese food is that they have a tendency to have the same menu at every place, with the buffets offering seafood at night and on the weekends.
Ichiban differs on three major points: they offer an extensive salad bar, they offer an expanded sushi bar (more on that in a second), and they offer hibachi. Hibachi is the kind of Japanese-American cooking where the chef performs a “show” for one by cutting taking the ingredients and cooking them across a hot plate.
Now, I can’t review the hibachi as that’s mostly geared towards meat eaters, and though I eat seafood, I prefer other methods of eating seafood than hibachi.
The sushi bar disappointed me, as, well, it wasn’t really all that great; there wasn’t really that many varieties of sushi offered from what I could see, and when I walked up to it the first time, they were almost out of every kind.
I was only slightly adventurous this time around in breaking my normal pattern of food I eat at Chinese restaurants; I had coconut shrimp, the buttered seafood mix, mai fun (thin, white rice noodles), a king crab stuffed pastry, and a few pieces of sushi. The second time around, I had some macaroni and cheese and some lobster baked in cheese.
Naturally, I had to try their macaroni and cheese after Chris’s brother said that it tasted odd; my opinion differed from his as the mac and cheese seemed just right to me, not needing salt or anything.
Now, my adventures took place on two different fronts: first, the peach bun, which I had no idea what it could be, and the whole baby octopus stir fry. The peach bun is difficult to explain; it looks like a rather unimpressive bun, and it tastes mostly like regular bread, except that at the center is a sweet, yellowish, cake-y paste. I described the flavor as tasting like a gooey, highly concentrated pound cake. They were delicious at best and unimpressive at worst; nothing too terrible or disgusting about them.
The baby octopus was a difficult one. I got three or four on my plate, not knowing how they would taste, and I tried one of them; I actually like octopus and squid. The stir-fry was spicy, as it turned out, and the octopus was difficult to chew. I like octopus in olive oil that’s been boiled until tender, and I think the baby octopus would have been better without the spiciness to it, which didn’t complement its flavor well.
The chewiness factor bothered me; I wish I could’ve cut them and eaten them piece by piece, but I had to actually pop a whole one in my mouth and eat it, and the spiciness just killed the whole experience for me. Some flavors just don’t mix well.
Also, they brought our tickets and fortune cookies way too soon. I have to dock them a few points for that; we may have been halfway through the meal when the tickets came, and another friend had yet to arrive and eat. Typically, I see the bringing of the ticket as a polite way to encourage people to hurry up, but there is such a thing as rushing it. Also, I’m a slow eater; I chew my food thoroughly before swallowing and just generally make it a point to taste it and enjoy it before swallowing.
Now, for the pricing, which was the worst part of the experience: including tax and only ordering water, my ticket came up to be about $14.50. That is, of course, because we did dinner, and because at dinner, they include seafood. They may actually only do seafood on the weekends, I’m not sure.
Lunch is cheaper, around $8 per person, which seems more reasonable.
Buffets, in general, are slightly bothersome to me because I don’t eat so much at buffets; I tend to eat in a more spread out manner throughout the day, eating here and there, as opposed to going to a restaurant, sitting down, and eating one huge meal.
But then, buffets are also designed in such a way that people can choose from any variety of immediately available food. Buffets may be the ultimate sign of the American culture and the general attitude of wanting whatever we want and NOW without waiting and without any effort whatsoever.
That brings up a story!
When I was in high school, our history teacher took us to a Civil War reenactment, then to Fort Rucker, and then to a Thai restaurant in Daleville owned by some of her friends. The family owned and run Thai restaurant, Two Sisters, did a buffet, which included about 12 items if memory serves. I remember how good their spring rolls were even now.
Later, I recall one of my classmates criticizing the place and exaggerating about how they had a tiny buffet and only three things on it. Again, that’s the kind of attitude people have today- they don’t just want options, they want every option ever and all at a low, low cost.
Eventually, having too many options catches up with us, and instead of being able to choose one out of two things, we’re choosing two out of 10 things, then we’re choosing 10 out of 100 things, then 100 out of 2000 things; it’s more work to choose something than it is to work for the money to pay for whatever it is we’re choosing!!
I’ve gotten off topic, oops.
Back to Ichiban!
Beaux’s Verdict on Ichiban:
I would have to give them 3.5 foodie stars out of 5 stars. The price really killed the whole experience for me. Given, for the amount of food some people eat, I understand $15 is robbing the owners of the restaurant, but I’m not one of those people.
Would I go back?
Yes, I’ll likely return to Ichiban, but for the lunch prices.
Would I encourage others to go?
Yes, if you’re an Asian cuisine foodie, I would suggest checking it out. I would suggest, too, that you make dinner a celebration for some reason, as just seven people eating would total a ticket of over $100.
Now you see why I normally order appetizers in restaurants as meals instead of getting a so-called “entree.”
Get your nosh on, folks!
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