Ichiban has replaced the Cat 'n Fiddle Restaurant in Concord NH much to the dismay of some area residents. My husband wanted to try Ichiban but we don't eat sushi and I wasn't interested in sitting around a grill watching a chef cook. Friends went, raved about it and last Saturday night invited us and two other couples to have dinner there. They wanted more sushi. One of the friends is half Japanese and said he had taken his mother there. She had approved of the restaurant.
We arrived and searched for our friends. We were surprised at how crowded it was, especially the bar area. The only room not crowded was the large room beyond the bar. Since we were a party of 8, we were seated in that room and the only large tables were against the window. This was very cold. I kept my parka up around my back. Fortunately DH had dressed to be warm. My friend seated next to me said she was of an age when cold didn't bother her but wanted to know if I was too cold. Well, if you have to keep your coat around your back, it's too cold but I didn't want to complain especially because the other couples were all avid outdoor winter fans.
Our waitress warned us there would be a wait for drinks because the bar was backed up. There was indeed a wait which was surprising since only one in our party ordered a mixed drink. The rest of us ordered beer and soda. On my friend's recommendation I ordered the Japanese beer sihoran (sp?) which was smooth. I very much enjoyed it. I don't care for hoppy, bitter beers. My husband wasn't feeling great so he ordered soda, didn't want to eat much and just tasted some of my tempura (not very adventuresome but I wanted to order something he might be tempted to try). Edamame was ordered for the table. This is fun to eat, salty and tasty green soy beans. (you don't eat the pods) DH ordered chicken fried rice for his meal and refused offers to try any sushi. I was surprised that he pronounced the rice #2 in his list of all time favorites. (His favorite is the House special fried rice at the tiny Asian Delight in Franklin NH). Like his favorite Thai style rice, this rice was lightly cooked and flavorful unlike Chinese fried rice that is dark brown with too much soy, the kind you douse with sweet sauce.
My friend ordered Lemon Grass and Seafood soup for an appetizer. It was full of seafood and vegetables. We wondered if lemon grass was typically used in Japanese cooking. I was surprised at the number of rolls than contained creamed cheese. So maybe some of the rolls are more for American palates. Someone ordered seaweed salad for the table to share. I love seaweed salad and this one had fine sticks of cucumber on the bottom.
I was delighted to discover that one section of the menu 'house rolls' contained cooked fish so I ordered the Dynamite rolls. Our waitress said it was her favorite. It was pleasantly spicy and there was plenty for a meal.
There is no way I can remember all the different kinds of sushi that were ordered. I decided what the heck and tried all that was offered including rolls that contained eel. I am partial to rolls that contain avocado. My friend held up one roll that was very pretty like a stained glass window. The waitress had a charm that was similar to the roll. As an inexperienced sushi eater I was surprised that the raw fish did not taste uncooked and slimy. I was also enthralled by the different tastes within a roll. I might be 'hooked'. Unlike a meatball that tastes the same all the way thru, each bite of sushi is different.
We stayed quite late and did not feel rushed to leave. After the initial bar delay, a second round of drinks did not take so long. One order of sushi that included tuna was very delayed because they had run out of tuna or something. It would have been very disconcerting if people hadn't been sharing what they ordered. We were given small bowls to hold soy sauce but I didn't think we needed any more seasoning. I have spread wasabi and ginger on grocery store sushi to add flavor but again, I didn't think these delightful tidbits needed anything extra. I did not, however, that the ginger was delicate and sweeter than what comes with grocery store sushi.
Overall, I'm looking forward to another visit to explore the menu. My friend had printed out a guide to sushi but the font was too small to read. We will try not to sit in that cold room unless it is during a warmer part of the year. The wait staff was pleasant and helpful. The menu has an extensive list of rolls (more than shown on their website) so I am sure they are asked a lot of questions.
Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse
118 Manchester St, Concord, NH 03301