Ichiban Japanese Grill
Ichiban is a small, yet cozy Japanese grill restaurant that has a menu to please both the sushi and hibachi grill lover. I visited the restaurant on three separate occasions and found the food, service and overall experience enjoyable.
The outside décor of Ichiban isn’t going to win any awards since it is located in the old, rundown shopping center shared with the AMF Bama Bowl. But the inside remodeling job was tastefully done and provided a nice visual experience to augment their food. It hinted just enough of a Japanese motif but was not completely immersive like some other ethnic restaurants in the area. The dining room is a little small and is divided into two sides by a walkway that leads to the entrance/exit. They have table seating as well as high back booths that provide a little privacy in a small area.
On all three visits over the last week, I found the food at each visit to be outstanding. On my first two visits, I got the same meal. It consisted of the basic Tapanyaki Chicken box with fried rice, two crab Rangoon pieces, salad with Japanese Vinaigrette on the first visit and their Ginger salad dressing on the second. While I could not see the kitchen, it appeared that my chicken was prepared on a hibachi grill. It was cooked to golden brown and still remained juicy and tender. While the salad was just iceberg lettuce, both dressings were delicious and were unique from other Japanese places in town. I found them both good complements to the iceberg lettuce. The fried rice was typical containing peas, egg, onion, etc. It was prepared well and possessed good flavor and was visually appealing. The shrimp sauce that comes with each box is delicious. I noticed many customers wanting extra and even wanting it on their salads.
On my last trip to Ichiban I decided to try their sushi. I do not profess by any means to be an expert on sushi but I do know what I like and I feel like I can describe it well for the layman sushi eater. I chose two rolls on this occasion, the Spicy Monster Roll and the Sun Roll. The Sun Roll was my favorite of the two. It had smoked salmon, avocado and cream cheese. As one can imagine, the texture of this roll was extremely smooth due to the cream cheese and avocado. The smoked salmon flavor was, for lack of a better word, smoky. The fact that the sun roll was tasty and different definitely made it my favorite. If you have a first time sushi eater in your group, this roll would probably make a nice starter. The Spicy Monster Roll contained shrimp, cucumber and hot house mustard. I found the hot mustard to be the upside of this roll as it gave it a little kick. I’m not a huge fan of cucumbers so this is probably why this roll was my least favorite of the two. However, it was still enjoyable.
The price of the food at Ichiban is surprisingly low given the higher quality of their food. When I had the dinner boxes, my total bill excluding tip was not over $9.00 and I had tea as well. The sushi rolls were also priced to please. Both rolls ran approximately $5.00 each so my bill was around $12.00 after tax.
The staff at Ichiban is what makes the place shine. On my first visit, I was there on a Wednesday around 7pm. For whatever reason, there was only one server working the floor and she was managing it like a pro. She had a packed house and was still able to keep everyone satisfied. My next two visits found the place adequately staffed with friendly, courteous and helpful people. On my sushi night, my server noticed that I had poked some of my cucumbers out of my Spicy Monster Roll and offered the advice of leaving them off on my next visit. Since I am a relatively new to sushi, I appreciated the help. While I was eating, I noticed the cashier speaking personally to a lot of her customers. This was very pleasing to me as it shows a couple of things: one being that she has repeat customers and secondly, she talks to them as people and not solely as a revenue stream. Oddly enough, when I paid my bill on the last night, she knew me from my previous visits and actually knew what I had each time. Amazing and refreshing. I eat out a lot and frequent the same places over and over. Never have I been noticed or called out for my previous visits. While just being remembered in place probably should not be that big of a deal, it meant a lot to me and really did make a difference.
All in all, Ichiban Japanese Grill hit the spot. With a combination of great service, really good food and acceptable prices, you really cannot go wrong here if you’re looking for a mainstay Japanese restaurant to satisfy your appetite.
- Closed for lunch on Mondays
- Great for a first date or casual meeting
- You do not pay at the table. They will give you a ticket slip. Take that to the cashier at the window when you’re done.
- I would not say that food preparation is slow but it takes some time to prepare. Go with plenty of time, especially if they are crowded.
- I do not have kids but seems kid friendly. Kids would love the boxes. Chicken, rice, lettuce. Perfect for junior and you can have sushi.
- Afterwards, go bowling at the AMF Bama Bowl next door to end a good night
Ichiban is located at 502 15th Street in Tuscaloosa in the AMF Bama Bowl Shopping Center.