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Ichimura report

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Eric Eto Apr 1, 2005 01:17 PM

Celebrated a birthday last week, and decided to hit up Ichimura since I haven't had the opportunity yet. Ichimura rivals Yasuda in terms of subdued civility. Soft jazz in the background, and a little on the quiet side. But when you look over the low counter, you get the expectation that everything is going to be exquisite. While you can get a standard omakase sushi, the menu items provide many temptations. Glaring on the first page are the multi-course dinners they offer at $75, $90, $110 price ranges (they also have a $150 course dinner which requires 48 hours advance notice). We opted for the $75 and the $110 courses. Here's what they consisted of (I'm probably missing an item or two):

$75 course dinner
cooked, marinated octopus suction cups; okra; snapper row balls
Ankimo with ponzu jelly
Nimono (simmered item): vegetables (carrot, lotus root, taro root, )
Mushimono (steamed item): monkfish with monkfish liver sauce
Yakimono (grilled item): salmon saikyoyaki
Suimono (soup): nameko mushroom soup
Sushi: ootoro, hotate (scallop), kohada (gizzard shad), ikura (salmon roe), tamago (egg), suzuki (bass), toro maki, amaebi, hirame, anago
Dessert: ice cream

$110 course dinner
cooked, marinated octopus suction cups; okra; snapper roe balls
Ankimo with ponzu jelly
sashimi: ootoro, tai (snapper), mirugai, saba, amaebi, raw octopus (with homemade salt),
Nimono (simmered item): vegetables (carrot, lotus root, taro root, )
Mushimono (steamed item): crab and mushroom wrapped in yuba
Yakimono (grilled item): medai (sea bass?) saikyoyaki
Sunomono: Fried fish with cucumber/seaweed salad
Suimono (soup): lobster misoshiru
Sushi: ootoro, hotate (scallop), uni (Santa Barbara), aji (horse mackerel), ikura (salmon roe), tamago (egg), suzuki (bass), toro maki, amaebi, two kinds of white fish (hamachi? hirame?), anago,
Dessert: Ice cream

The first amuse course of octopus suction cups, seasoned okra, and snapper roe seemed to me like a statement of what was to come. The octopus was marinated in a miso-like mixture with a slightly sour flavor and then lightly cooked. The okra was in a light dashi, and the snapper roe in a ball shape was also in a cool light dashi. The ankimo was topnotch; the ponzu jelly made the ankimo much easier to enjoy than with a plain liquid ponzu, in that it was possible to eat it cleanly. While I've never met an ootoro that I didn't like, I loved that the sashimi course came with a couple oversized pieces of it. Nothing wrong with that. The mirugai, while fresh, was a bit surprising in that this one had some texture problems. There were 5 slices (chunks really) of mirugai, and at least two of them contained really hard chewy bits, kind of reminiscent of namako (sea slug) or nankotsu (chicken joints). The raw octopus was quite good, especially with the salt. I had something similar in LA during my last trip there (see my Kampachi sushi report from 8/04).

Watching the cooks work behind the counter, I realized that Ichimura doesn't have an actual kitchen. Everything is made behind that counter. So instead of having a real working oven, they rely on a couple burners, a steamer, and commercial toaster ovens to produced the cooked items. Luckily, they don't offer anything that requires more than that equipment. The cooked food was good, though not spectacular. The simmered vegetables were done usukuchi (light flavored), as going beyond the gentle flavors would have meant overpowering the seafood flavors of the other courses. The crab in yuba skins were nice, but I really loved the monkfish dish with the ankimo sauce. Though I guess if you don't love ankimo, it might be a bit overkill to have it twice within 3 courses. The yakimono dishes of salmon and medai (I can't remember the kind of fish it was) were marinated in miso and/or sake and then grilled lightly. While not the best rendition of this dish ever, it was a nice mid-dinner course. The $110 dinner comes with a sunomono course (vinegared salad), and this one had a nice chunk of a fried fish, the size of a small mullet. For the squeamish, it might not be your thing as it's the torso of a fish that's been fried, bones and tail included. The frying allows the bones and tails to be edible, though a bit crunchy. Once fried, the dry coating of the fish absorbs the vinegar to infuse the fish with the sweet vinegary flavor. The lobster misoshiru was kind of over-the-top. A lobster claw sticks out of the bowl. It was pretty good, but a bit messy trying to get the meat out of the claw and knuckle. I good idea, but not worth the trouble. By the time the sushi came out, we were getting full. The standouts were the toro, aji (just melted), uni, ikura (never experienced ikura this soft in the US), and amaebi.

While I've enjoyed the course dinners at Jewel Bako, I've never felt very full after eating there. Ichimura, on the other hand, load you up for a similar price tag. I was pretty astounded by the sushi toward the end of the meal. Not only by the quality, but by the quantity (the sushi was the size of a sushi deluxe order at most sushi restaurants). I was barely able to finish my $110 dinner. Even the $75 course offers plenty of food. While the $75 dinner doesn't come with a sashimi course, there was plenty of sashimi to share in the $110 course. While these course dinners are wonderful, I would rather do an omakase sushi dinner there, which will be my strategy for when I visit Ichimura again. One caveat I should mention is that the chef knew it was my birthday, and we also know one of the waitresses there, so while I don't believe I got served items in excess of what they offer, I can't be sure.

Ichimura
1026 Second Ave (54th)
(212) 355-3557

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    banh cuon RE: Eric Eto Apr 1, 2005 04:11 PM

    thanks so much for the great report! can't wait to try the restaurant.

    1. d
      Dave RE: Eric Eto Apr 1, 2005 04:59 PM

      Great report, it sounds like a lot of fun (and eating)!

      I can't believe they stuck you with omlette sushi on a $110 dinner!!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Dave
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        potluck RE: Dave Apr 1, 2005 05:28 PM

        actually I always make a point of getting the tomago when I order omakase at Yasuda. It's really terrific. Actually, Yasuda himself told me once that that one way to test the skills/care of a new sushi place is to order the tomago first, it it's not good then move on. Done right, it can be sublime. Done poorly (or forbid, not house made), you're right it's just a cold piece of omelet.

        1. re: potluck
          t
          The Rogue RE: potluck Apr 1, 2005 06:07 PM

          I agree, in Japan tomago is considered a benchmark for quality at a sushi restaurant.

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