Ichiban Sushi - Empress Walk - Review
I had a love affair with Akasaka, the Japanese restaurant that was originally in this location, so I was saddened, but not surprised when it closed (because it was never busy any of the times I was there). It was replaced shortly after by Ichiban Sushi, which I had not, until tonight worked up the energy to try, but I needed to buy groceries and eat dinner somewhere on the way home from work and it seemed a convenient choice.
The menu is varied, but with an obvious emphasis on sushi, especially a number of elaborate rolls. I opted to start with the edamame appetizer and then have a sashimi dinner.
Things began quite promisingly, with green tea that actually had some flavour and aroma instead of tasting like it was the 12th pot of the night made with last weeks tea leaves as seems to be the custom in most Japanese restaurants. The serving of edamame was generous, and nicely, lightly salted. Miso soup was pretty dull, and lacked much in the way of tofu or anything else. The waitress's warning that it was 'very hot, be careful' was laughable, as it was not at all hot, but warm at best. I was okay with that, though, as it meant I could actually eat it right away. Salad was of the usual lacklustre lettuce variety, vastly overdressed as is par for the course in Japanese restos.
Starters aside, the main meal arrived, a tray of sashimi, 18 reasonably generous pieces, prominently featuring salmon and tuna, but with four other varieties, as well. The salmon needed to be trimmed much better, as it was still showing significant scale, and the tuna was rather surprisingly cut in cubes. The biggest problem with the fish, though, was that it was all still partially frozen.
Now, I realize that we're all deluding ourselves into thinking the sushi we eat is fresh rather than flash frozen, but I like that delusion. I prefer to imagine that the fish I'm eating is just as fresh as it was when it was caught on some distant shore in some distant week. Serving it to me still frozen does nothing to preserve my fantasy. It also does little for the flavour of the fish itself, which suffers from simply being too cold to taste.
Other things which were too cold to taste included the standard green tea ice cream, which was frozen into a brick so hard that I couldn't even get a spoon through it. It made me long for the perfectly soft crystallized ginger ice cream of the Akasaka days.
Dinner, with one appetizer, and one entree, and the included ice cream dessert, as well as tax and tip came to $27. It's cheaper than Akasaka, but it shows in the food.
I was in the area and stopped in at Ichiban Sushi at Empress Walk today.
The sushi rice was weirdly greasy. The tempura shrimp were covered in thick, tough, shiny coating reminiscent of beer-battered fish, with a rich mahogany colour that can only come from really old fryer oil.
Nothing tasted very fresh.
Ichiban Fish House (not to be confused with Ichiban in Empress Walk) on Spring Garden has really fresh sushi. It's my favourite sushi place in North York. The slices of fish are generous, and they use less rice in their maki than most restaurants in Toronto. They often include gratis edamame and tofu, and sometimes other treats. The chefs are very friendly. It's very busy at lunchtime.