I’d never been all the way down to Steveston before, so Emme and I paid a visit one afternoon just so I could see it. However, by the time we reached it, it was already pretty late and most shops were already closed or getting ready to close. Giving up on the idea of poking around and doing a little shopping or poking around or something, we just settled for finding something to eat. I’d spotted a Japanese restaurant when we were driving around and practically demanded Japanese for dinner… so that’s we went for!
When we entered, Emme was already warning me that we’d be out the door in two seconds if it wasn’t “authentic”… (We have had bad experiences at places where the chefs aren’t actually Japanese, so although it may seem haughty and purist-ish, we try to stick to “authentic” Japanese places. Seriously excuse me if that seems snobbish!) However, another customer that had just entered with his two kids assured us that this place was nothing short of absolutely amazing, and I have to say that we were very pleasantly surprised with the way dinner turned out that night.
The décor was what you would expect in a Japanese restaurant, but far “classier” than what you will find in many “hole-in-the-wall” sushi joints in Vancouver. It was very clean, in any case, and I liked how the sushi bar, like any truly good sushi place, had all of their fresh ingredients on display in a refrigerated glass container in front of where the itamae works. The music was also Japanese, and overall the place gave me a really good feeling about deciding to dine there. The ambiance was great, as far as I could tell. Obviously, the “cleanliness” aspect is especially important in a place that serves raw fish, and Ichiro certainly had that part covered.
The service started off as very promising, too. Even though the restaurant had opened only three or so minutes before we arrived, there were already loads of people flocking to get inside and quite a few tables taken. We were seated in a nice, quiet corner by the window and a friendly waitress brought out drinks pretty quickly and took our orders. The efficiency of the service was impressive, especially since none of the waitresses seemed rushed in the least while still managing to cater to clients quickly and in a personable manner. Only towards the end of the meal, when there was actually a line up and a constant stream of take out orders coming in, did the service start to falter a little bit. It was inevitable, I suppose, but Emme and I took that as our cue to leave, anyway. Aside from that point – since we were basically being ignored after we had finished – I don’t have any further criticism for Ichiro’s service.
Emme started off with one of her typical dishes – Ebi Sunomono. Not much to say… It was very good, and there was a copious amount, so you could actually consider it good value. It’s not too hard to make, so you’d think that more sushi places in Vancouver would be a little bit more giving when it comes to sunomono dishes, like Ichiro…
Even though it wasn’t on the menu, the waitress informed me that they actually had an assortment of pickles when I mentioned that I kind of wanted oshinko maki, although all I actually wanted was the takuan inside the roll. So I ended up getting Oshinko Moriawase, which wasn’t just a collection of your typical pickles, but also some ones I’d never seen before! Never seen pickled lotus, or whatever-the-heck-that-delicious-stuff-in-the-bowl-was, but it was awesome. Definitely not just your typical, Japanese-grocery-store-bought pickles. I think the lotus root pickles were actually my favourite, which is saying something considering how much I love takuan (the yellow stuff; pickled radish).
Emme claims that fish never fill her up, so she got another one of her favourites that usually manages to satisfy her appetite: Beef Teri Don (just beef teriyaki donburi). Needless to say, it was also great. For once it wasn’t just a bunch of tough beef pieces just sautéed in some teriyaki sauce you can buy from the grocery store. It had its own unique taste, probably because the sauce was house-made, and the beef was all of pretty good quality and very tender. No bad cuts of beef here, it looks like! The rice was also authentic sushi rice… and thus tastier than your average steamed rice that you sometimes get at sub-par sushi places.
As is my habit, I got a bunch of nigiri sushi pieces. They were all amazing. Maybe it’s because Steveston is right by the water? I don’t know what it is, but the ebi, hokkigai, hotate (especially!), and sockeye salmon nigiri were the best I think I’ve ever had. Better than Hitoe Sushi’s. I was impressed… and my tastebuds were in ecstasy, I believe. The nigiri made me excited for the other dish I ordered: Tai Usuzukuri. Well, what can I say? If the sashimi pieces for the nigiri pieces are great, I guess it’s a given that actual sashimi will also be fantastic. It is on the menu, but it was also the special of the day on their fresh sheet, and so was a better price… It was also the best red snapper I’ve ever had. Incredibly tender. Was it even previously frozen? It tasted so fresh that I think I may have fooled myself into thinking that they had killed the fish just a couple of minutes before serving it to me…
I finished off with some Vegetable Soup — a yosenabe pot, essentially. For me it was a toss-up between the veggie one and the mushroom (Kinoko Yosenabe, I think) one, but obviously I picked the veggies over the ‘shrooms. With the delicious broth they serve it to you in, though, I’m sure they’re both fantastic. I loved mine. I’ve been let down by broths at other Japanese places, for they’ve always been really weak when I’ve had yosenabe at other restaurants, or even udon dishes. This one was hearty, but not heavy, and was hot enough that the vegetables would cook by the time it was cool enough to eat… but not so hot that they were overcooked instantly. (That takes skill, I’m sure, haha!) The soup was a winner in my books. I’m glad I decided not to get a plain miso soup, though I’m sure their miso is bound to be great, as well.
With the varied menu and all the delicious-sounding dishes on it, and the promise of great food with pretty good service and a nice ambiance, I can’t help but really want to go back to Ichiro. If it weren’t so far away, I would go more often!
Value: 4 [A tad pricey, although you are getting great bang for your buck when you consider how high the quality of the food is.]