Review: Ichigo Ichie

Beyond tempura and teriyaki
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  September 7, 2010

Do you know anyone who still thinks that a meal at a Japanese restaurant means starting with a cup of miso soup, continuing with a California roll, and settling for teriyaki or tempura for the main course? If so, send them to Ichigo Ichie, which is to a quiet sushi bar as strolling Tokyo’s bustling Ginza is to meditating in a temple.

The choices of food styles are as varied as the shapes and sizes of balls on ESPN. The place is enormous. Go straight ahead upon entering and you can sit at a counter and watch dexterous chefs slice fish for sushi and sashimi; go to the left to the hibachi room and join those at a teppanyaki table, and gape at one of those knife-juggling samurai showing off over a flaming grill. Or step to the right into the main dining room, as we did, and surprise yourself.

Ichigo Ichie| 401.435.5511 | 5 Catamore Blvd, East Providence | Mon-Thurs 11 am-2:30 pm + 4:30-9 pm; Fri 11 am-2:30 pm + 4:30-10:30 pm; Sat 1-10:30 pm; Sun 1-9:30 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar | Sidewalk-Level Access
If you’re looking for the austerity of a Zen monastery, you’re in the wrong place. The decor is Ginza-gaudy. Where we were seated, jutting bamboo above a partition clashed with massive dangling curtains of crystals next to us — Kurosawa meets Liberace. (FYI: If your wife checks out whether they’ll tinkle like wind chimes, she’ll be politely informed that they are delicate.)

Fortunately, perusing the menu indicated that the food would be more successfully adventurous. In case the adventure was going to be perilous, I fortified myself with one of the saketini offerings, a Tokyo Sunrise ($8), which included Asian pear sake as well as pear vodka. Very tasty.

The non-liquid appetizers are remarkably varied. A page of kitchen and sushi bar specials offers Thai-style grilled ribs ($16), a four-piece “sushi pizza” ($9), and sushi or sashimi that includes foie gras, monkfish liver, and Kobe beef ($5.50-$9.50). There are three soups besides miso ($3.50-$7), including clam and ginger in a clear broth, and a seafood/vegetable combo. Among cold appetizers are fish carpaccio ($12-$15) and fish tartare ($12-$18).

I chose something called “spicy crunchy roll” ($8), with yellowtail rather than tuna or salmon. Deep-fried, the contrast with the soft interior made for an interesting mouth feel, and the spicy red aioli dribbled on top didn’t overwhelm the fish. Johnnie is a big tempura fan, and since I begged her to choose something more interesting for her main course, she ordered a vegetable tempura appetizer ($8). Lightly battered and not greasy, there were mushrooms, taro root, and a large stem-free crown of broccoli among the ingredients.

I wanted to take advantage of Ichigo Ichie’s expansive menu to avoid the same-old, so my eyes were pulled to a list of seven “Kitchen Entrées.” They include two dishes, rack of lamb and filet mignon, that look like they’re there for husbands lugged along by wives who like Japanese food. Johnnie had the miso black cod ($18), a species also called small-scale cod. The four pieces of fillet were seared black and brown while remaining moist and flavorful. They were interspersed with pea pods and drizzled with a thin wasabi sauce and a honeyed mayo. There were a few semicircle pieces of corn on the cob, but the “mixed vegetables” of the menu description must have included the parsley and carrot-shred garnish.

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