Ichiban Sushi is a rather nondescript restaurant located on the corner of Wellington and Church Street. In fact, the only memorable feature is that it is located beside a dentist’s office that promises “no lectures, no magazines from 1975, and…we’re nice!” In fact, if Ichiban didn’t fall within my Lady who Lunches perimeter, I probably would not have stepped through the front door – and it certainly would have been my loss.
The interior is small and cozy with light woods and sunshine flooding in through the windows, and the entire right side of the restaurant is taken up by a large sushi bar. The decor is “standard sushi shop” with paper place mats and table tents showcasing different types of sushi and maki, yet there are a few touches – like these beautiful dishes for soy sauce – that suggest this isn’t your run-of-the-mill, middling sushi joint. The staff, while slightly over-attentive (coming to our table multiple times within the first few minutes), are extremely friendly.
My partner in crime on this outing was fellow Spotlight writer Pauline Dong, and she opted to be adventurous, ordering a seafood udon soup ($9.95) plus a side of hamachi sushi ($5.95). I went for a wakame salad ($3.50) to start, and followed with a spicy salmon caterpillar roll ($9.95). When the food was brought to the table, the plating was the first to catch my notice. The salad wasn’t simply carelessly heaped onto a plate as I have seen at many similarly priced sushi restaurants – rather, it was piled with care, topped with shredded daikon and thinly sliced cucumbers, chunks of crab on either side, and the barest sprinkling of sesame seeds. Furthermore, it wasn’t drenched in dressing, but had a hint of citrus that allowed the seaweed flavour to shine.
Pauline’s udon soup was a massive bowl, brimming with noodles, fresh greens and huge chunks of seafood (mussels, octopus, shrimp, etc), and she reported, with approval, on the freshness of the ingredients. My caterpillar roll was delicious, and the knife work on the nearly razor thin avocado slices wrapping the roll was impressive. My only quibble was the unnecessary parsley used to top the roll, giving it a slightly dated feel (can we please all agree that parsley should no longer be used as a garnish?). Pauline’s hamachi was also fresh, thickly sliced, and the rice was perfectly cooked (versus some competitors whose sushi rice tends to be overcooked, crumbly and dry).
When I got home that evening to tell Mark about this remarkable gem (given the price point and quality, there is no doubt that I will return) and how I could pop by on my way home and get it as take-out, I was in for my biggest surprise: Ichiban is actually a chain. While independently owned, it seems that other locations serve similarly high-quality food, based on conversations I’ve since had with friends. So if you can’t get down to this one, see if there’s one in your area, and let me know if their other locations live up to my experience.
Ichiban Sushi House
58 Wellington Street East
Wellington Street East and Church Street