Millhopper sushi bar satisfies cravings
By: Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent
I know I'm not the only person who gets those insatiable cravings for various foods. Some are less discernible than others, but when a sushi kick comes about there are only a few places I dare venture to for a quality experience. In the case of consuming sushi, this is not the time to scrimp on money for lower quality, as there is a sizeable chance you will be, to put it bluntly, quite ill.
Ichiban sushi downtown was a go-to in my first years coming to Gainesville until they closed their doors some time ago. Although the other location at 4401 NW 25th Pl still existed, I had never been. I have since lost touch with the "family-owned and operated" Asian restaurant's food for the last two years until a window of opportunity came about in the form of a birthday lunch with a sushi-loving birthday girl.
At about 2:30 p.m. on a Friday, there were few patrons donning the booths and sushi bar area of Ichiban nestled behind Zaxby's and next to Blue Agave, but it seemed the one server struggled to handle the handful of tables as it was. Ten minutes after being seated, the server brought our drinks and it was clear that unless we ordered right then we risked the server never coming back to the table (OK, a tad exaggerated, but you catch my drift).
Since I had been to Ichiban before, unlike the birthday girl, Carol, I knew of a few must-try rolls. This actually proved more of a hindrance than a help, as I wanted to order one of almost everything while still indulging my adventurous food side and trying something new. Honestly, this is a problem for me at most restaurants. That being said, Carol ordered a bowl of onion soup to start, and we decided to split the house-recommended Aji-San roll and one of the specialty rolls: a take on their Leo's Bacon Roll, both of which were listed as baked rolls. I talked up the Aji-San roll so much to Carol there wasn't a chance she wouldn't try it, but at least the special take on the bacon roll would be new for us both.
Although, as mentioned previously, the service was pretty slow due to one server attempting to appease what was about five or so tables at a time, the food was well worth any wait. The variation on the Leo's Bacon Roll only came in the form of replacing the avocado typically atop the roll with an (imitation) krab and sauce mixture, although for the up charge from the original roll this slight change was barely visible. As this was the first roll presented, we took a moment to marvel at this compilation of seafood and pork smothered beneath a rice blanket covered with a cream cheese, sauce and tempura flake mixture spread atop. This was the epitome of balance in a roll: The shrimp and krab melded beautifully against the fatty yet crispy zing that bacon offers to any meal, as well as the opposing softer sensations of the sauce and cream cheese and the crisp contrast that a bite of cucumber and scallion provided. I'm sure the original version of the roll would have been just as enjoyable, though.
The Aji-San roll then revealed itself as nothing short of "interesting," in every sense of the word. Physically, a pink outer casing of smoked salmon enveloped the roll while a layer of spicy mayo and tamago rested under a chunk of banana balanced on top. Yes, you read correctly: banana. As each of the six pieces of the roll were big enough to require at least three bites to finish each, the flavorful insides became one with the outside. Aside from the extremely soft yet savory smoked salmon that accompanied each bite, the tuna, krab and, for a more zesty twist, smoked eel provided the meat base, alongside avocado and cream cheese.
Needless to say, each ingredient provided an incomparable richness by its own terms. This might seem a tad off-putting to some, but the hearty layers of this roll, with that unexpected punch of banana, was mouth-watering.
I then felt the birthday girl needed to try the fried ice cream with a smattering of chocolate sauce and orange wedges to complete the experience. The ball of crispy, yet sweet, warm dough hugging in a cold, runny vanilla ice cream surprise was just enough for two people, and it provided the sweet tooth satisfaction that accompanies my meals typically.
In general, the cooked entrees, for the less adventurous or seafood-opposing consumers, are also very well-crafted and flavorful to a sizeable portion and consistency each time at the restaurant. The teriyaki dishes and beef gyoza are some of my favorites. Again, the consistent quality is what sets Ichiban apart from the many Asian fusion and sushi establishments trickled throughout Gainesville. But I cannot stress the quality and care taken in assembling each roll presented, as well as with every experience I have had at the former downtown-located Ichiban as well. There is no other way to understand how unique and vivid each specialty roll is without going there, immediately.
The Pluses and Minuses of Ichiban Sushi:
Ichiban Sushi + Indicators: Excellent, unique food; consistent quality; sizeable portions.
Ichiban Sushi - Indicators: :A tad too pricey for an everyday occasion
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- Phone Number: 375-8880
- Address: 4401 NW 25th Pl., Gaineville, FL
- Urban GLOB Location: Millhopper Area
- Web Site: Ichiban Sushi
- Latitude: 29.6757472
- Longitude: -82.3901353