New Ichiban Grill

27 Jul 2011
A Bit Costly ($15-$25)
Southeast Huntsville
3 out of 5
New Ichiban Japanese Steak, Seafood, & Sushi

Melanie’s Take

I can only remember visiting a cooked-right-in-front-of-your eyes hibachi place once or twice growing up. It always seemed mystical and a little intimidating to me. I definitely got over that in college when a group of my friends and I frequented the local Shogun. We ate there an embarassingly tasty number of times. I learned a couple things about hibachi cooking when I was there. One, the tastiness of the food depends heavily on the person preparing it, and, two, there is nothing mystical about throwing some rice, veggies, meat, and soy sauce on the flattop, but it is still entertaining.
Fried Egg
Shane and I found ourselves giving a New Ichiban Grill a try on a Saturday afternoon. We made it there just before last call for lunch, but with our food being prepared in front of us, we weren’t concerned about lack of freshness. We were seated at an eight-person table with a group of six that was presumably one family there for a birthday. (As a sidebar, the group was oddly melancholy to have been celebrating a child’s birthday, but we tried not to let the weird vibes bring us down.) I chose the teriyaki chicken and Shane chose the red snapper. All lunch entrees come with miso soup, salad, fried or steamed rice, and veggies. You definitely don’t have to worry about leaving hungry.
Salad with Ginger Dressing
My favorite course of the meal was the salad. It was simply made of iceburg lettuce, but it had creamy ginger dressing on top of it. Let’s face it: the dressing made the salad, but the cool cripsness of the lettuce with the ginger was light and refreshing. The soup was a slightly salty broth that was otherwise lacking flavor. We sipped a bit, but left most of it to save room for the main event. Our hibachi master arrived, confirmed our orders, and got down to business. He spun, tossed, and caught knives while chopping and flipping at lightning speed. We didn’t experience the classic “volcano onion,” but otherwise, th experience was typical of a hibachi spot.
Tepanyaki Chicken
The fried rice was tasty, but given the amount of butter used, we knew it would be. The veggies were also nicely seasoned and cooked well without being mushy. My chicken was well cooked, but it was diced up into tiny pieces, which made me feel like I should have been with the younger set in the birthday group. Its teriyaki flavor was tasty, and dipping it in the sauces provided made it more complex and delicious. I plan to return to New Ichiban whenever I get the chance. For the amount of food and the experience, it is definitely worth the cost at lunch.

Shane’s Take

When discussing our next place to try, Melanie suggested the new New Ichiban Grill next to Publix on Whitesburg. From the outside it looked inviting enough, but I soured a little upon visiting their website, which left me thinking it would be a Shogun copycat. I’m no fan of any kind of copycat, let alone a chain restaurant copycat, so I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about trying it. Nonetheless, we gave it a shot and I left impressed.
Diners at New Ichiban Grill
I first was impressed by the Ichiban atmosphere. As expected, the seating is like other hibachi outlets: grills surrounded by tables cover the dining room. Unlike so many Japanese restaurants that buy their decor from Samurai Looks on the Cheap, Ichiban has opd for a more modern atmosphere. It feels much like a restaurant you’d expect to visit in a big city. The furnishings are simple, the lines are prominent, and, other than the gaudy chandelier in the lobby, there are few frills. Although few in quantity, the frills are high in quality: a captivating mural of a snow-capped mountain covers one wall, hypnotic color-changing LED lighting adorns the grill hoods, and a cool-looking you-won’t-find-this-at-home bathroom sink encourages longer handwashing times for the easily amused (like me). Add to that what sounded awfully like Meiko Kaji tunes in the background, and my affections were running higher and higher.
Chandelier at The New Ichiban Grill
I also was impressed by the food, but less so than by the atmosphere. Mind you, when you go to a teppanyaki grill, you want to be entertained—it’s like Chuck E. Cheese for thirty-something foodies and their elementary-age kids, right? It’s a guilty pleasure, sure, but a pretty good time nonetheless. Our chef was friendly and well-practiced (and had a cool surfer hairdo), but he didn’t do the “egg roll” or the “volcano” tricks you expect at these places. I was really hoping for something only an American in a fake Asian restaurant can appreciate, but it wasn’t happening. He did whip out our food quickly, and it tasted good. I chose the red snapper, which came with a salad and fried rice. The ginger dressing atop the salad tasted awesome, and, as expected, the rice was a soy-infused pleasure. The snapper also was good, but Melanie’s chicken was better. In my experience, most of what you order at a teppanyaki grill tastes the same, and, well, it unfortunately was like that at New Ichiban. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the food.
Tepanyaki Fish
Despite being impressed by the atmosphere and the food, Ichiban has its drawbacks. For one, I may have caught a whiff of that we’re-not-gonna-make-it odor. Unfortunately for restaurateurs, that smell is no more fun for the clientele than it is for them. Also, the price is a bit high: it cost us $24, despite drinking only water and choosing against ordering an expensive entree. Also, I was confused by the service. While our waitress was kind and our chef friendly, I got the impression that nobody was having fun that day. Finally, Ichiban hardly is more than an average teppanyaki grill. I see no compelling reason to choose it over Shogun or Tokyo. All that being said, I enjoyed our meal at New Ichiban. They delivered good food in a pleasant atmosphere with service from friendly people. I recommend it if you’re in the mood for some fancy knifework and tasty fried rice.
  • Don’t miss that chandelier. I took at least a dozen pictures of it.
  • They also serve sushi, but we didn’t try it.
  • For you condiment lovers, yes, New Ichiban gives you a tray of sauces in which to dip your food.
New Ichiban on Urbanspoon

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